Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to support cassava seed system across Africa.The MoU, which is in the framework of the project named Building and Economically Sustainable Cassava Seed System, phase II (BASICS-II) will allow SAA to establish and incubate cassava seed entrepreneurs in Benue and Nasarawa states.

“This partnership will create at least 100 cassava seed entrepreneurs that will make a decent living from the sales of cassava stems and they will form the foundation of a cassava revolution in Nigeria”, says Dr Godwin Atser, Country Director for SAA.

Although Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava, the country is yet to maximally exploit the benefits of the ‘Rambo crop’ due to low productivity caused primarily by poor planting materials (seeds) that are often diseased.

According to official data, average cassava yield in Nigeria are below 10 tons per ha as opposed to Thailand with more than 20 tons per ha where cassava seed system is much advanced. This trend has limited the competitiveness of Nigerian farmers and their ability to tap into the export market.

However, using the BASICS-II approach which emphasises the use of improved-certified cassava seeds, farmers can more than double their yield, says Prof. Lateef Sanni, Project Leader of BASICS-II.

“We are excited to partner with SAA in this project as they will bring to the table their expertise in agricultural extension delivery and help us to scale the BASICS Model to new geographies,” Prof Sanni added.

Limited access to quality seeds and propagation materials for well-adapted varieties hinders efforts to transform cassava systems. As a result, African farmers plant old, often diseased stems. On the flip side, breeders had developed a suite of improved varieties but have struggled to deliver to farmers stems that serve as seeds. Governments and NGOs have occasionally launched campaigns to multiply and distribute cassava stems, but these efforts have been sporadic, unreliable, and unsustainable.

In the last four years, the BASICS-II project demonstrated that the use of improved cassava stems can change the narrative of low yield per hectare and provide multiple streams of incomes for farmers as they trade stems and roots all together. Besides, the seed system creates jobs (commercial seed entrepreneurs), and wealth across the value chain.