The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says it plans to work closely with the Taraba State Government to transform cassava in the framework of the African Development Bank-funded Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) programme
The decision is part of a two-day visit to Taraba state, which ended today and witnessed the inauguration of the Cassava Compact—a component of the TAAT, training of extension agents, and sites selection and validation for the establishment of cassava demonstration plots.
Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, said the inauguration of the Cassava Compact of the TAAT in Taraba would open the door for the scaling of new innovations to cassava growers to the state and north east region of Nigeria.
Dr Sanginga, who was represented by Godwin Atser, IITA Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert, said the transformation of cassava in Taraba state offers tremendous opportunities in food security and job creation.
“We hope that this program will contribute to reducing the food import bill to Africa of about $35bn per year,” he added.
The move to invest more in north east Nigeria comes at a time when IITA received the 2018 Africa Food Prize for its efforts in transforming agriculture on the continent.
The Taraba State Governor, Mr Darius Ishaku commended IITA and AfDB for selecting Taraba state as part of the TAAT-Cassava Compact program, adding that the program would amplify the efforts of the state government in cassava transformation and revitalise agricultural activities in the state.
“While we remain grateful to AfDB and IITA for the kind gesture and honour done to the state, I wish to also pledge that Taraba State Government will do its best to ensure the success of the program in the state,” Governor Ishaku, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Anthony Jellason said.
He expressed optimism that the TAAT-Cassava Compact programme would turn around the economic fortunes of the state and that of cassava growers in particular.
The Governor noted that the TAAT-Cassava Compact program was of utmost importance to the state in view of its vast arable land and the importance which cassava plays to the livelihoods of millions of farmers in the state.
He commended IITA for the TME 419 (improved cassava variety) which the state procured through the village seed entrepreneurs of the Cassava Seeds systems project (also known as Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Seed System for Cassava (BASICS)).
The inauguration of the TAAT-Cassava Compact was followed by a training of 60 extension agents drawn from the state Agriculture Development Program (ADP).
The lead facilitator, Mr Atser, took participants through best-bet agronomic practices in cassava production, weed control, calibration, safe use of herbicides, and record keeping.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr David Ishaya re-echoed that the efforts of IITA and AfDB in transforming cassava and empowering extension service providers was commendable.
Participants at the training expressed appreciation over the training, promising to pass on the knowledge to farmers.
The event also witnessed the distribution of tractors by the state government to farmer cooperatives. In attendance were permanent secretaries, the programme manager of Taraba ADP, farmers, the cassava growers association, private sector, and Syngenta officials etc.