Cassava farmers in Abia, Benue, Oyo and Ogun states have in the last four years, enjoyed the benefits of the weed control techniques developed and introduced to them by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Field results from researchers work in those states show that farmers have increased yield, made more money and surmounted the biggest challenge in cassava farming – weeds!
Last Monday, the IITA-CWMP invited more than 14 Commissioners of Agriculture across the country for a conference tagged “Unveiling of new Technologies for Weed Control in Cassava Farming Systems” to share the success stories of the four year trials in the pilot states.
The commissioners all agreed and declared that weeds was the major cause of low yield in cassava and the main constraint limiting the competitiveness of cassava farmers in their various states.
They agreed to make proposals to their state executives for budgetary allocations for cassava weed control in the 2019 budgets to cover areas such as radio jingles and training of extension agents, agric officers and other officials in weed control. This will help in the dissemination of the findings of the project on farm levels.
Their collective view was that to get the best out of cassava cropping, there was the urgent need for collaborative efforts with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Cassava Weed Management project, Federal Government, State Governments, the Private sector, national research institutes, universities, and other stakeholders.
Among the cost variables to cassava production, weed control takes 50 – 80 per cent of labour budget. A do-nothing approach to weed management in cassava ends up being a disaster with farmers losing almost everything.
Though Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, the yield of cassava is low with FAO reporting a national average for Nigeria of 9.1 tons per ha compared to Asian countries where yields are more than twice Nigeria’s national average. Consequently, Nigerian cassava farmers can’t compete with their counterparts in Asia and Latin America.
According to Mr Monday Osaigbovo, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Edo State, “If we do nothing to address weeds, we won’t be able to transform cassava in the country.”
Over the last four years, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project with donor support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has developed innovative packages to control weeds in cassava.
Implementation partners include the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike; the University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Other partners are the state Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), government representatives, international cassava scientists, and the private sector.
Excited by the results of the project so far, the commissioners agreed to support the process of upscaling the work done so far and taking it up from there.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery at IITA said the commitments made by the commissioners and policy makers was a step in the right direction.
He lauded the IITA research team and asked for more advocacy in the war against weeds in cassava cropping.
Results presented by the Project Leader of the IITA-Dr Alfred Dixon, showed that by switching to the innovative packaged developed by the Project, Nigeria farmers could record more than 20 tons per ha, up from 9 tons per ha being reported by FAO as Nigeria’s national average.