Improved Varieties of cassava crucial- FG tells scientists  

The Federal Government has tasked scientists, plant breeders and relevant stakeholders in the cassava value chain on the need to develop more improved varieties of the crop. 

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr Ernest Umakhihe, stated this in his goodwill message at the opening ceremony of the NextGen Cassava Project Annual Meeting in Abuja. 

Umakhihe underscored the need for concerted efforts by stakeholders to figure out how genetic improvement of cassava crop could help Nigeria realise its potential yield level. 

Represented by the Deputy Director, Roots and Tuber Department, FMARD, Mr. Raji Akinbamidele, the permanent secretary noted that the interaction between the national cassava research scientists and specialists from other continents, would contribute immensely to efforts in addressing challenges facing the cassava sub-sector. 

His words: “The sector has continued to gain prominence as shown in its continuous contribution to the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Between April and June, agriculture has contributed 23.2 per cent of the total GDP, in spite of challenges such as flood, climate change and other natural disasters, insecurity, banditry and kidnapping among others.” 

On his part, Head of Abuja Station, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Prof. Lateef Sanni, emphasised the need for genetic improvement of cassava varieties in the country to boost food sufficiency. 

“We will continue to collaborate with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners and stakeholders in the cassava value chain for farmers to get the best seeds, “he added. 

Also, the Registrar, National Variety Release Committee (NVRC), Dr Sunday Aladele, disclosed that the committee had registered over 706 varieties of 39 crops, cassava inclusive. 

He said, “Cassava is one of the most important root crops which contribute significantly to the livelihood of millions of people in Sub Saharan Africa. “It plays an important role in the supply of carbohydrates and vitamins, which in most cases serve as a substitute,” Aladele added. 

According to him, the meeting will envision what is in the pipeline for future cassava improvement for food security and industrial uses. 

Aladele ,therefore, appealed to scientists to take a cue from modern techniques deployed by the NextGen project to fast track crop improvement in the country.

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