In order to avert a major food crisis by 2050, Africa needs to double her cassava production.
The Director for the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21), Dr. Claude Fauquet said this in Lagos while adressing a world press conference recently.
Dr. Fauquet described the low root yields of cassava in Africa as unacceptable and called on member nations to adequately invest in the crop to change the current yield per hectare.
Though accounting for 55 percent of global cassava root production, Africa’s yield per hectare is the lowest in the world with about 10 tons per ha as opposed to Asia where average yield is 21 tons per hectare—or double the yield in Africa.
Dr. Fauquet, whose speech comes ahead of the Forth International Cassava Conference in Cotonou, Republic of Benin on June 11-15, 2018, said a do-nothing approach would hurt the continent as it would have to contend with more people to feed, and changes in climate that would become more unpredictable.
He argued that to reverse the current trajectory would demand deliberate steps including greater investment in research and innovations, provisions of a favorable policy framework, accessibility of loans to farmers at single digit rates, and mechanization across the value chain.
According to him, Africa needs to scale out proven technologies including the recommendations on weed control being developed by the Cassava Weed Management Project, improved cassava varieties, and best-bet agronomic practices such as appropriate fertilizer application.
“If we do these, then to double cassava yield will not be a dream but a possibility,” he said.
Dr. Fauquet said while technologies existed to transform cassava, not many policy makers were aware of such technologies, adding that the forthcoming Global Conference on Cassava with the theme “Cassava Transformation in Africa” was a unique opportunity that would create an environment for exchange of technical, scientific, agricultural, industrial and economic information about cassava among strategic stakeholders like scientists, farmers, processors, end-users, researchers, the private sector, and donor agencies.
According to him, 300 participants including policymakers, scientists, farmers, processors, end-users, researchers, the private sector, and donor agencies would be participating in the June conference.
He reiterated that the aim of the Conference was to raise awareness on the importance of cassava in the world, reviewing recent scientific progress, identifying and setting priorities for new opportunities and challenges while charting a course to seek Research and Development (R&D) support for areas where it is currently inadequate.
The Director Designate of GCP21, Professor Malachy Akoroda noted that the Conference would provide an opportunity for African countries to tap the best, current, and most innovative technologies that would transform cassava value chains across Africa.
Founded in 2003, GCP21 is a not-for-profit international alliance of 45 organizations and coordinated by Drs. Fauquet and Joe Tohme of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). It aims to fill gaps in cassava research and development towards unlocking the potential of cassava for food security and wealth creation for farmers, processors, transporters, marketers, and packaging enterprises.
The 2018 Global Cassava Conference is supported by several major institutions including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), CGIAR Roots Tubers and Banana, African Development Bank (AfDB), French Institute in Benin, French Embassy, CORAF, Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), INRAB – Institut National Agronomique du Benin, and FAS-UAC – Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques de l’Université Abomey – Calavi, Republic of Benin. A larger number of organizations will join the Conference, sponsoring special events, travel grants, workshops, satellite meetings, as well as private companies from the different parts of the world that will have the possibility to show-case their products at exhibition booths. The Conference will welcome as many as plan to attend.