Commissioners of agriculture in Nigeria’s cassava growing belt have declared weeds as major drivers of low yield in cassava and the main constraint limiting the competitiveness of cassava farmers in the country.
In a communiqué signed by 14 Commissioners of Agriculture and issued at the 2018 Annual Review & Work Planning Meeting of the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project with the theme “Unveiling of new Technologies for Weed Control in Cassava Farming Systems’ in Ibadan, Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery at IITA said the declaration was a step in the right direction.
He said that the first step to solving a problem is identifying and recognising that there is a problem.
Though Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, the yield of cassava is low with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reporting a national average for Nigeria of 9.1 tons per hectare compared to Asian countries where yields are more than twice Nigeria’s national average.
As a result of this, Nigerian cassava farmers cannot compete with their counterparts in Asia and Latin America.
The Commissioners noted that to change the cassava narrative, there was the urgent need for collaborative efforts with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Cassava Weed Management project, Federal Government, State Governments, the Private sector, national research institutes, universities, and other stakeholders.
Monday Osaigbovo, Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, stated that it was high time attention was given to weed control.
“If we do nothing to address weeds, we won’t be able to transform cassava in the country,” he said.
Among the cost variables to cassava production, weed control takes 50 to 80 per cent of labour budget. A ‘do-nothing’ approach to weed management in cassava ends up being a disaster with farmers losing almost everything.
Over the last four years, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project with donor support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has developed innovative packages to control weeds in cassava.
Implementation partners include the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike; the University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
Other partners are the state Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), government representatives, international cassava scientists, and the private sector.