A project— Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS) has demonstrated that the cassava seeds system can be profitable for players involved across the value chain and can sustainably deploy improved varieties of cassava stems to farmers while creating jobs.
Researchers say in the last five years, BASICS has created a viable and sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria, opening a vista of opportunities for seed entrepreneurs and cassava farmers looking for new and improved varieties for cultivation.
The Project Director, Dr. Hemant Nitturkar, explained that the project was able to link breeders and researchers who developed improved cassava varieties and technologies; with farmers and processors who benefitted from high quality planting materials.
According to him, the BASICS project has created over 150 community-based seed entrepreneurs who are running viable cassava stem businesses in states like Benue, Cross River, Abia and Imo; and facilitated the establishment of two seed companies (namely IITA GoSeed located on the IITA campus in Ibadan and Umudike Seed at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia State) to ensure a reliable supply of breeder and foundation seeds of varieties in demand.
According to Nitturkar, in Nigeria, 46 varieties were released in the last 20 years, but people do not know about or use more than about five of these varieties.
“We encouraged the development of village seed entrepreneurs because cassava stems can be costly to transport over long distances, so we aimed at locating seed production closer to the cassava growing communities. These village seed entrepreneurs multiplied improved stems, and they made certified seeds available to the farmers on a commercial basis,” he explained.
He stated that apart from ensuring that seeds of different varieties are always available to farmers, the seed entrepreneurs formed a vital link between researchers and farmers because “as they are selling these seeds, they also learn from the farmers what new features they require in the varieties. The seed entrepreneurs push up this information to the seed companies who take it back to the breeders.”
Dr. Peter Kulakow, Cassava Breeder with the IITA said one of the greatest achievements of BASICS was its ability to work with young people and women and to empower them in seed production.