Farmers and researchers are lamenting low cassava productivity attributed to the impact of major diseases such as Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Steak Disease (CBSD).
CBSD leads to root rot and shows in yellowing and wrinkled leaves.
Its attack can cause losses of up to 100 per cent and reduce the crop’s market value.
According to experts, CBSD has become an extremely serious constraint to cassava production.
Addressing a Cassava Stakeholders’ Workshop organised by Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, the team leader of West Africa Virus Epidemiology (WAVE), Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed, noted that cassava, a major root crop is at risk with threats of possible outbreak of CBSD, if proactive measures are not put in place fast.
He described CBSD as a dangerous plant disease,because of the impact it can have on food and economic security.
According to him, Nigeria’s cassava is vulnerable to CBSD and a broad range of diseases as well as less known viral strains across tropical cassava-growing regions.
He said WAVE aims to tackle issues of cassava viral diseases which is currently ravaging the sector.
He said: “Although CBSD has not been reported in Nigeria, it has invaded Uganda.In view of Nigeria’s position as the world’s leading cassava producer, the accidental introduction of the disease to Nigeria could cause a devastating food crisis with severe consequences on the economy.”
He said the aim of the sensitisation was to ensure a clear understanding of the virus threat .
On the control of the virus, he noted that the use of uninfected planting materials was important and also the use of resistant cassava varieties.
The National President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), Mr Segun Adewunmi, says Nigeria can save N2 trillion from the importation of wheat, if appropriate measures are put in place to boost cassava cultivation.
He said: “Cassava can actually trigger massive industrial revolution if the Federal Government can address challenges confronting the planting of cassava in the country.
“There are over 20 products that could be exacted from cassava; Products such as ethanol, industrial starch, glucose syrup and sweetener were incidental raw materials for numerous utility items with limitless market potential,’’ he said.
He advised the Federal Government to support farmers by providing sufficient funds that could be used in carrying out research in tackling virus diseases ravaging cassava.
The institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aderemi Atayero urged the government to work with farmers to reduce food prices amid fears many more people are dropping below the poverty line.
Atayero,who spoke through the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof Shalom Nwodo Chinedu noted that increase in the price of staple items such as garri.
For instance, the don noted that the price of a bowl of garri has risen to N1000, which made it difficult for more families with less financial means to meet their basic needs.
According to him, if the price of garri and other food items continue to rise, it will adds an extra burden on families who are struggling to meet other bills.
He urged the government to find ways to keep food costs down until the struggling economy get back on track.
Team Leader, WAVE for Root and Tuber Crops of the university, Dr Angela Eni, stressed the need to control diseases affecting cassava productivity .
Her words: “The kind of yield farmers get from cassava could provide food for over 800 million Africans.”
Mrs Eni, an Associate Professor of Virolgy in the Department of Biological Sciences, who convened the workshop, said currently the first phase of the project was to address virus diseases affecting cassava productivity.
Mrs Eni said: ”WAVE is preparing to respond rapidly in case the cassava brown stream virus spread to West African countries so that we do not have the repeat of Ebola crises.’’
She added that the WAVE team will also share its major findings so far in each of its mandate States. Running concurrently in six West African Countries – Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’ Ivoire and Burkina Faso – the primary aim of the WAVE project is to work with cassava farmers and relevant stakeholders to develop a holistic strategy for improved cassava productivity.
The Covenant University hub of the project has the mandate to undertake the project activities in the Southwestern and Northcentral states of Nigeria.
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