Cameroon reaps benefits of investments in agricultural research
Written by Alex Abutu
Funding for cassava research in Cameroon is having a positive impact as farmers are recording increases in yield, fewer pests and disease pressure and improved livelihoods.
A statement issued by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and made available to Daily Trust noted that from 10 tons per hectare, farmers with improved varieties are now harvesting between 25 and 30 tons per hectare of cassava.
The statement quoted Dr. Rachid Hanna, Country Representative for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture as saying: “The progress we have today in cassava is a result of the investments we have had from organizations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development.”
Hanna made the comment while receiving IFAD President, Dr. Francis Kanayo to IITA station in Cameroon.
In an interview with journalist on the sidelines, the IFAD President called on the government of Cameroon and the private sector to leverage on the gains made and scale up the technologies to farmers.
According to him, ‘Cameroon has the potential to feed itself, if only the country could tap its land and agroecological resources.’
While commending IITA and PNDRT for the results made in cassava improvement and agriculture in general, Kanayo described cassava as a crop for now and the future.
Historically, attempts to increase cassava productivity have been challenged by pests and diseases such as the African root and tuber scale, cassava green mite, cassava mosaic virus disease, cassava anthracnose disease, cassava bacterial blight and root rots.
Hanna said IFAD funding has helped researchers to develop and disseminate cassava varieties with multiple resistance and/or tolerance to pest and disease constraints and to disseminate natural enemies under the IITA-biological control program to tackle some of the pests.
The deployment of these improved varieties by researchers from IITA in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), universities, PNDRT, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has raised the country’s cassava production to 3 million tons.
Besides yield increases, the improved cassava varieties provide the farmers with a menu of utilization with some purely for processing into products such as high quality starch and gari; and multipurpose varieties that can be used for high quality flour, baton de manioc, as well as boil and eat. Many of these varieties also address the specific needs of farmers such as good taste, leafiness, ease of peeling, and root peel color.
To tackle postharvest losses in cassava which were partly sparked by the increase in productivity, IITA and PNDRT in 2010 developed and deployed cassava chippers to farmers in 25 pilot villages in the main cassava producing zones of Cameroon. Fabricators in the country were also trained to manufacture the chippers locally. These machines facilitated the processing of cassava, and eased drudgery that is associated with cassava manual chipping.
Hanna explained that the machines helped in reducing the burden faced by farmers especially women who are saddled with the primary responsibility of processing the root crop. In follow-up surveys, users highlighted the ease of use of the chippers and good chips’ quality. Men also expressed considerable interest in the use of the chippers.
Today, several non-governmental organizations, community based organizations and farmer associations are emulating and replicating this technology.
In the future, Hanna said IITA and its partners intend to introduce yellow cassava varieties rich in beta-carotene to farmers to tackle malnourishment caused by deficiency in vitamin A.
According to him, plans are underway to make this happen in the shortest possible time.