The Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) has called on policy makers and donors to support the transformation of the Cassava crop in Africa.
The call made ahead of the international conference on cassava comes amidst concern over the decline in harvests per acre of cassava in Africa compared to Asia.
Dr. Claude Fauquet, the Director of Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century, says cassava productivity per acre has remained at nine tons or less yet the crop plays a key role in Africa’s food security. Its productivity has remained low (about 9 tons per hectare).
Dr. Fauquet notes that, cassava productivity in Asia is more than 21 tons per hectare- a situation that gives Asia competitive advantage in global cassava trade.
His call comes at a time when cassava is becoming central to food security of over 600 million people in the developing world, and has become the fourth most important crop after maize, wheat and rice.
Dr. Fauquet explains that addressing the yield gap demands more funding for cassava research and development (R&D) from all stakeholders if the world wants to help farmers towards ending hunger and poverty in Africa.
A number of Scientists from Africa are expected to meet in Cotonou Benin in mid-June to deliberate on how to improve Cassava productivity and yield. Like in Uganda, the Cassava crop has in the last two decades been affected by several viruses affecting yield and productivity.
Dr. Titus Alicai, the head of Root Crops Department at the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge, says cassava productivity in Uganda is affected by pests and diseases, which can’t be easily fought by farmers without guidance of experts.
He cites pests like the Cassava mealy bug and Brown Streak Virus, which can lead to 100 percent yield loss as some of the problems that researchers are trying to resolve. The conference under the theme: Cassava Transformation in Africa is one of the ways the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century is contributing towards the transformation of the root crop.
This year’s conference is being organised by GCP21, in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Institute of Agricultural Research of Benin (INRAB).