Recently, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), through its Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seeds Systems (BASICS) said it had developed a rapid multiplication technology bent on solving cassava problems in Nigeria. Taiwo Hassan reports.
Statistics have revealed that Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world. Consequently, it is expected that the country is suppose to earn more foreign exchange from the commodity in exports and also meet her local demand requirement for consumption.
However, findings have shown that post-harvest loss in the country’s agricultural sector are caused by lack of exposure to the use of modern technology resulting in losses of semi-perishable crops, such as potato, onion, sweet potato and cassava before getting to the market.
Ironically, on a yearly basis, Nigerian farmers produce a lot to boost the country’s economy in terms of agriculture contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP). But sadly, most of these farm produce are lost at post-harvest stage.
So far, tackling post-harvest loss in Nigeria’s agriculture with modern technology has become imperative for key stakeholders.
In fact, it is said that the missing link on why the country’s cassava industry has not been expanding with less than 10 tonnes per hectare current yield of cassava per annum is because of the traditional techniques usedby growers, traders and the processors.
Consequently, these have resulted in considerable deterioration of physical and nutritional qualities of harvested crops.
Hence, the elimination of post-harvest losses of agricultural products is important to boost food security and availability in these countries.
Director-General of the National Roots, Crops, Research Institute (NRCRI) Professor Peters, had explained that Nigeria’s agriculture has been facing enormous post-harvest loss amid lack of technology exposure by the farmers and had caused setbacks to food productivity in the country.
“The essence is to find policies to be able to expose ourselves to local technology and also able to share experiences, partnership and research with those in most African countries like Ghana and Togo.”
The don added that the country loses billions of naira every year without the commensurate inputs of farmers due to post-harvest crops damages.
He advised farmers to seek modern information so that they will understand how to cater for crops.
Besides, he said that farmers should see agriculture as a business that required the use of modern techniques that would not only increase yield but also be impactful and protect the environment to avoid abuse of the chemicals.
IITA’s new innovation
Worried by post-harvest loss in cassava value chain, IITA, one of the international research institutes in Nigeria that had been evolving in research and development (R&D) in boosting the development of food and nutritional security in Nigeria and beyond, explained that its BASICS shad developed a rapid multiplication technology bent on solving cassava problems in Nigeria.
Its BASICS Project Director, Dr. Hemant Nitturkar, who disclosed this at the annual planning review meeting of BASICS in Ibadan, Oyo State, referred to the technology as Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH).
Speaking on the importance of the innovation, Nitturkar said: “This opens up a huge entrepreneurial opportunity for Nigerian youths to act as seed entrepreneurs to supply improved seeds and advise to cassava farmers.
“This will help farmers, processors and the nation at large, as less than 10 tonnes per hectare current yield of cassava per annum is not sustainable. Nigeria should double this and BASICS is working in that direction,” he said.
He also said that an IITA ‘Go seed and Umudike seeds’ have been established at the National Roots, Crops, Research Institute (NRCRI), as a place to obtain certified breeder and foundation seeds.
According to the Director-General, National Agriculture Seeds Council (NASC), Dr Philip Ojo, the impact of BASICS had been advantageous following the positive reports received daily from the field.
Ojo said; “Production of certified cassava seeds has multiplied tremendously from 10,091 bundles in 2017 to 55, 639 bundles in 2018; the use and need to use certified seeds is gradually becoming institutionalised.
“The Cassava Seed Tracker (CST) has revolutionised our certification systems and presently been dovetailed at the NASC end to become the national seed tracker, which will encompass all crops.”
Speaking in an interview with New Telegraph, Pastor Segun Adewumi, the National President of Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), explained that government’s attitude towards production of cassava as a game changer of the country’s agric sector is not only discouraging cassava farmers who are labouring to grow the root crop, but it is also stifling the opportunity the country has to reboot her economy through agricultural input.
He said that Nigerian farmers could earn up to N20 trillion from production, processing and exporting of cassava, both as processed food and raw material.
“All we need is to devote five million of the 84 million hectares of the arable land in Nigeria to cassava development and that will yield 200 million MT of cassava,” he said. “Using industrial starch as example, 200 million MT of cassava will produce 50 million MT of starch. Starch sells for N350,000 per ton and that will generate N17.5 trillion.
“Fortunately, cassava can be cultivated in all parts of Nigeria. It is even better cultivated in the North where weeding is easier and land clearing is much less expensive.
“Cassava provides over 20 domestic food types for Nigerians and that includes, garri, fufu, lafun, starch, tapioca and pupuru, among many others. Also, it has five major industrial products namely, ethanol, industrial starch, cassava flour, glucose syrup and sweetener.”
“Incidentally, Akinwunmi said these are also raw materials to numerous utility items with limitless domestic and export market potential. “Cassava can trigger massive industrial revolution that will earn Nigeria over N20 trillion yearly,” he said. “Cassava is actually the answer to the economic woes of Nigeria.
For agric stakeholders, it is expected that the IITA’s new technology will reduce post-harvest loss in Nigeria’s cassava value chain so as to achieve food security and productivity across board.