‘How to raise Africa’s cassava yields’
Expert says Africa is largest producer of cassava, but lowest in yields
Regional Representative for West Africa, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Abdourhammane Kollo, has disclosed that despite the region’s contribution to cassava cultivation worldwide, its yields remain the lowest at 10-12 tons per hectare.
He made the disclosure yesterday; at the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation, (NCAM) in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, while discussing strategies at improving Africa cassava yields at a programme for tractor operators, extension agents and agricultural officers.
He said AATF’s mission is to turn cassava into a cash crop in Africa through the introduction and coordination of a Public-Private Partnership; Cassava Mechanisation and Agro processing Project (CAMAP).
Kollo said the training becomes crucial against the backdrop of the continuous low yields of the crop in some cassava- growing nations of Africa, which may confine the continent to a worse status, unless new approaches are promptly embraced.
According to him, “Low productivity is as a result of poor farming tools, near absence of mechanisation and limited market opportunities. It takes an average of 8-10 days for an African farmer to harvest a hectare of cassava compared to an Asian farmer who harvests same farm size in six hours.”
While charging the trainees, drawn from Kogi, Kwara, Ogun and Oyo States to imbibe new modern approaches, he said cassava has an enormous potential as a food security crop and also a major contributor to improving the livelihood of rural poor farmers within the continent.
The regional representative said the key word in this transformation drive lies in technology, hence the need to expose African cassava farmers to modern mechanisation tools that would not only reduce the drudgery involved in its production, but also guarantee high yields and market opportunities.
As part of the measures, he said, “CAMAP has trained farmers to realise the full benefits of the crop, while recording yield increase of up to 200 per cent on farmer fields with good agronomic practice. This includes the use of improved stems, use of fertilisers, frequent weeding and right planting and harvesting times.
“Using tractor drawn implements, AATF and partners have managed to reduce the time for land preparation from 240-man hours to three-man hours, planting from 64 man- hours to one man-hour, harvesting from 320 man-hours to eight man-hours in 12,500 hectares for more than 5,500 households in Nigeria, Zambia and Uganda,” he added.
AATF country representative, Umaru Abu urged the participants to spread the acquired skills to other cassava farmers in their respective states, saying it should not be strictly tied to machines but, increasing agricultural production through improved seed systems, best agronomic practices and farming, especially in the area of market linkages.
Also, Acting Executive Director of NCAM Dr Yomi Kasali said the institute has designed and tested a mini-tractor for the use of farmers in the sub region.