By Ruth Tene Natsa
Abuja — The African Development Bank (AfDB) yesterday said it would invest $120 million in the next two to three years to boost productivity and transform cassava and other eight other commodities on the continent.
The nine commodities include; cassava, rice, maize, sorghum/millet, wheat, livestock, aquaculture, high iron beans and orange fleshed sweet potatoes.
Director for agriculture at AfDB, Dr Martin Fregene said, “Transforming cassava on the African continent would help African nations to cut imports and redirect about $1.2bn into African domestic economies.”
Fregene made the revelations while speaking at the fourth international conference on cassava, being organised by the Global Cassava Partnerships for the 21st Century, GCP21, in Cotonou, Republic of Benin on Monday.
The cassava conference is being attended by more than 450 local and international partners in the cassava sector, coming from research and development organisations, government, farming community, and the private sector, a statement obtained by Leadership revealed.
A statement signed by the conference coordinator, Godwin Atser, stated that “The bank’s investment in cassava comes at a time when African governments are scaling up efforts to end food imports and create wealth.”
Fregene said cassava was a strategic crop for Africa’s food security and wealth creation for youth, and women, adding that another dimension to the importance of cassava was in nutrition where cassava can enhance the nutrition of children directly or as feed for poultry and other livestock.
Minister of agriculture for the Republic of Benin, Dr Gaston Dossouhoui, said cassava remained the cheapest staple consumed by Africans, adding that “addressing the constraints of cassava production in Africa will have a positive impact on African farmers.”
He lauded the president of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, for his commitment to agriculture .
The minister also commended the GCP21 for organising the fourth international conference on cassava, emphasizing that it would contribute to knowledge sharing that would help in removing the bottlenecks in the cassava sector.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, deputy director-general for partnerships for delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said unlocking the potential of cassava required partnerships and close collaboration of partners to address the constraints facing cassava.
Dashiell commended GCP21 for filling the gaps in cassava research and development by organising a series of conferences with experts sharing knowledge on innovations in cassava.