The Cassava: Adding Value for Africa Project (CAVA II) recently held a two-day international training of trainers’ workshop at Oyo State College of Agriculture, Igboora. The workshop facilitated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) was part of strategies set by the project to demonstrate to its service providers, how cassava yield per hectare can be increased using practical techniques.
Earlier in April, the Project convened a training event for its service providers at the Federal College of Agriculture Akure. The participants from Uganda, Ghana and different parts of Nigeria were trained on how to get an average yield of 25 tons of fresh cassava roots per hectare using improved farming methods. To demonstrate the feasibility of increasing cassava yield per hectare, six demonstration plots were set up in Nigeria.
Two mid-level partners of CAVA II Project in Nigeria: Oyo State College of Agriculture, Igboora, Oyo State (OYSCAI) and Federal College of Agriculture Akure, Ondo State (FECA) were facilitated to set up demonstration plots in their various institutions. Five months after the demonstration plots were established, the Project convened another training of trainers’ workshop for the service providers who participated in the ToT workshop held previously in April. The objective was to learn about pest and diseases that affect cassava, how to properly identify them and control them. In addition, the mid-season training provided information on how to test for cyanide content and also gave an opportunity to see the progress of the demonstration plots that were planted in April and May of 2015.
The Project Director of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa, Prof Kolawole Adebayo who spoke during the training event at Igboora, harped on the need for farmers to do away with the traditional methods of cultivating cassava which reduces their yield. He explained that if farmers can increase their yield per hectare and reduce their cost of production, they will make more income from their farms.
He said: “As a farmer, you cannot control the cost of fresh cassava roots at the market, but you can reduce your cost of production and increase the population of your plants. If you increase your plant population within the same farmland, and adopt the appropriate spacing of 1m by 0.8m, your yield will increase from 10 tons per hectare to 30 tons per hectare.”
He further added that the Project has Agriculture Development Programme officers (ADPs) across Nigeria and partners in Ghana and Uganda who can assist farmers to cultivate cassava productively. He said: “the ADPs assist farmers in land preparation, selection of varieties and ensure that appropriate spacing is adopted. They also educate them on proper weeding methods which will reduce their cost of production.”
The Provost of Oyo State College of Agriculture, Prof. Gbemiga Adewale, who spoke at the workshop, explained that one of the objectives of the demonstration plot set up at the institute was to find out the best time to cultivate cassava and the varieties suitable for the agro-ecological zone.
He said, “We want to find out the months of the year where we can have the highest yield; we equally want to find out the varieties that is suitable for our agro-ecological zone. Secondly, we want to demonstrate different farming techniques for improved yield, such as pest chemicals, control weeds, plant spacing and the use of fertilizer.”
In the same vein IITA Scientist, Dr. Richardson Okechukwu, said that using improved cassava varieties, enrichment of soil fertility and adopting good agronomic practices are the three things that farmers should do in order to have good yields.
He said, “Farmers should try at least five varieties which can suit to their soil type; each of these varieties will give them 3 kg. If you space the cassava correctly at 1 meter by 0.8 meter, at the end of 12 months, you should have 10,000 plant stands.”
"A commercial farmer who wants to make more money should not do inter-cropping. You can only have more profit by reducing your expenditure and increasing your plant population. Make sure you stems are not roughly cut when you are planting. Mechanisation is another way of lowering your cost of production. Use of herbicide is very important in cassava cultivation, if you don’t do it well, you will not only waste your resources, but will spoil the environment.”
Dr Okechukwu, however concluded that right government policy, coupled with good markets will work together for farmers and SMEs to have a profitable business.