Scientists working under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture- led Cassava Weed Management Project have found a solution that simplifies weed control in cassava farming systems, raising the appeal of the crop among growers, and helping farmers to gain more incomes. The discovery of a weed control kit that addresses weed menace in cassava is significant owning to the fact that cassava is a long duration crop that demands multiple hand weeding – a practice that is commonly done by women in most of African communities.

Addressing stakeholders at the 5th annual meeting of the IITA-CWMP
held 14-15 March 2019, Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General
(Partnerships for Delivery) praised the team of researchers from IITA that
worked on the innovative weed control package in close collaboration with
national partners in Nigeria.

Dr Dashiell who was represented by IITA Deputy Director for West Africa, Dr Michael Abberton commended the team, stressing that the body of researchers were glad over the innovation as farmers can now control weeds without having to experience drudgery. According to him, “The importance of weed control cannot be ruled out in agriculture especially in cassava that is a staple crop in Africa.”

In smallholder farmers where weeds are not controlled, farmers lose as much as 40-70percent of cassava root yields to the menace of weeds. The IITA-CWMP which marked its fifth year of operation developed an integrated weed control method packed in a toolkit known as the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management. When applied, farmers can achieve more than double the national yield average of 9 tons per hectare of cassava without drudgery.

Lawrence Kent of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commended
the sterling feat achieved by the project but added that the task ahead was for the team to formulate strategies for dissemination as this would ensure that the results reach the farmers. “All of this research will make sense if more farmers apply it and get good yields,” he said.

Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader of the IITA-CWMP stated that the project had achieved a breakthrough that would lift cassava farmers out of poverty in Africa. He added that the greatest disservice would be to fail to disseminate the breakthroughs to farmers. “There is need to scale out research results so as to reach millions in a sustainable way,” he said.

While emphasizing the need for market, Dr Dixon pointed out that
the research findings will not reach the target groups without the market. “there is need to ensure there are linkages to markets, using a well-defined competitive value proposition,” he said.

The 5th annual review and planning meeting of the IITA-CWMP marked the end of the five-year phase of the project but also opened a new phase for researchers to progress their work in the framework of the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI). It drew participants from various stakeholder organizations including the University of Agriculture
Makurdi (UAM), National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike (NRCRI), Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, UPL, and Agricultural Development Programs from Ogun, Oyo,Benue and Abia States