afrol News, 1 March - Nigerian farmers have more than doubled the yield of cassava, thanks to new varieties and a little bit of "juju" delivered to the Oyo state after a food crisis in 2008.
The project "Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa" (UPoCA) has been implemented by the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture IITA). During the project, farmers in Ido community - in Nigeria's southern state of Oyo - say yields rose from an average of 10 tonnes per hectare to more than 20 tonnes per hectare.
"With local varieties, I used to harvest 10 tonnes per hectare but now, it is more than 20 tonnes per hectare," says Bashir Adesiyan, Chairman of the local chapter of the Nigerian Cassava Growers Association.
"During the harvest period, other farmers accused me of applying juju - supernatural or magical powers - on the farm but I told them it was the improved cassava stems and training I got from IITA that has made my farm better," he adds.
Like Mr Adesiyan, several other farmers in the community that participated in the project have witnessed increases in cassava yield.
In 2009, the Ido community became a beneficiary of the IITA project, which was part of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) response to cushion the effect of the 2008 food crisis that resulted in riots in some parts of the world.
Apart from Ido in Oyo state, other Nigerian states that benefited from the project were Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Benue states, according to the Ibadan-based IITA researchers.
Farmers say the project has boosted the production of cassava with the availability of improved cassava stems, making food more secure and generating wealth.
Richardson Okechukwu, Deputy Manager for IITA-UPoCA, says the success in Ido community was "a replica of what has happened to the other [Nigerian] states where the project was implemented."
The IITA-UPoCA project's success coupled with last year's release of new improved varieties is said to give Nigeria a positive outlook for cassava production. Nigeria is already the world's largest producer of cassava roots.
The increase in yield has led to calls for increased processing machines in the Ido community. The British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) has responded to the call with the donation of a cassava processing centre to promote the processing of the crop.
Benjamin Isola, Oribiyi 11, the Onido of Ido Land - the traditional chief of the community - says the projects have added much value to the local community by increasing food production and processing. ""We are happy," he sums up. The community leader called on the state and federal government to establish more cassava processing centres in the community.
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