Experts have emphasised the need to develop a new approach to cassava seed systems in Nigeria.
Speaking at a media parley held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture(IITA), Ibadan, on Wednesday, Dr. Godwin Atser, the Project Manager and Advocacy, Promotion and Outreach Lead of the institute, said the development of cassava is very important because the crop is one of the staple foods in Nigeria and an engine of growth.
He noted that the demands for cassava are growing rapidly while the yields are very low.
According to Atser, cassava plays a central role in the food supply of many African countries including Nigeria, stressing that yields must increase significantly to meet expended demand and ensure food security.
“This need will not be met if farmers continue to plant diseased materials of old varieties that were not bred for the changing environment. Farmers need reliable access to planting materials in a pipeline of new, improved, climate-smart varieties to increase yields, food security, resiliency and supply emerging enterprises in cassava processing,” he said.
Atser explained that IITA’s new sustainable cassava system model, called BASICS (Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System) offers an opportunity to achieve this goal.
He stated that the goal is to create a sustainable formal seed system that connects the value chain from growing breeder and foundation seeds to commercial seed production, incorporating genetic purity and quality assurance for health and varietal purity.
“The fundamental principles of BASICS model place emphasis on the breeding of clean and disease-free varieties that are in demand by end-users. Varieties must be tolerant of the two devastating diseases-Cassava Brown Streak and Cassava Mosaic-to fit into the model. The BASICS model underscores the need for commercialisation at all levels, through activities to create demand. advocacy, marketing, and promotion, thereby ensuring that producers of cassava seeds have access to markets to sell their products.
“What differentiates the BASICS model from traditional multiplication schemes is its emphasis on profitability to ensure a reliable and sustainable supply of planting materials. Farmers buy stems from Commercial Seed Enterprises (CSEs) who use these revenues to sustain their seed businesses and are encouraged to continue to multiply and sell stems for years to come. Early Generation Seed businesses are similarly designed to sell their foundation seeds to the CSEs, generating revenues that sustain their operations. The BASICS model incorporates quality control, inspection, and certification systems to ensure trueness to type and phytosanitation,” Atser said.
He listed the benefits of the BASICS model to include increase in cassava productivity, promoting quality and disease-free seeds, hindering the spread of cassava diseases, high multiplication ratio, creating jobs and wealth and response to feedback from end users.
The Project Manager implored journalists to help propagate the news about BASICS model of cassava seed system.
In her submission, the Vegetative Seed Specialist for IITA GoSeed, Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, said GoSeed has been able to help the cassava sector.
She explained that GoSeed is an early generation seed company responsible for producing quality seeds for farmers and early generations for further seed producers.
“We are not only producing quality seed, we also make newly improved variety of crops, Nigerian staple crops available to farmers.
“For most vegetative crop like cassava, the multiplication rate has been a big challenge whereby you have to wait several years to get enough planting material of the desired variety.But with GoSeed, we are employing the use of new and improved technology to ensure we multiply these planting materials,” she said.
Contributing, the Operations Manager for IITA GoSeed, Akinyemi Ibikunle, said the business of seed production and cassava value production is pretty rewarding if investors can follow through all of the recommendations.
He said: “For you to produce on an hectare of land as a foundation seed producer, you need about N745,000 for a cycle of 16 months in which case you are going to get a thousand bundle of cassava stem at the end of that cycle and about 20 tonnes minimum of cassava roots which should ordinarily give you about N1.6 million in return.
“Let me break it down in terms of how we come about that figure. You get one thousand bundles at thousand naira per bundle, that is a million naira straight. You are selling to the commercial seed entrepreneur, so your market is pretty defined. For roots, if you get 20 tonnes per hectare at rock bottom price of N30,000 per tonne and as at today, a tonne of cassava is going for like N45,000 to N50,000. We are just saying rock bottom price, that’s N600,000. If you add N600,000 to a million naira, that is N1.6 million on top of the N745,000 you invested.
“It is pretty rewarding and we are looking for interested people to come to us. You can reach out to us on www.iitagoseed.com.”
In his welcome address, the Head of IITA station in Abuja, Professor Lateef Sanni, said everyone have to work together to ensure that Nigeria develops a virus-free planting materials in order to stabilise food and job security in the cassava value chain.