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CSEs: Farmers Give Thumbs Up Over Possible Increase Yields

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

Cassava farmers in Benue State have expressed excitement over the positive outlook of their cassava fields as they anticipate high yields this harvest season.

This is even as hundreds among them have taken up the business of selling improved seeds in local communities, a statement by the Country Director for SAA-Nigeria, Dr Godwin Atser revealed.

The Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS-II) project uses a systems approach to offer farmers access to clean, disease-free, and high-yielding planting materials. Central to BASICS-II, which is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is the establishment of CSEs that are linked to early-generation seed producers which are in turn connected to breeder seed producers, the statement informed

According to Dr Godwin Atser, during a recent visit to one of the seed fields, he informed that “the cassava seed entrepreneurs will form the foundation of a cassava revolution in North Central Nigeria”.  “They will be the source of quality cassava planting materials of improved varieties for farmers in the region and beyond”, he added.

“In this framework, Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) is incubating CSEs that are generating income and creating employment from the sales of cassava stems in Benue and Nasarawa states. The project has successfully helped 10 cooperative societies to establish more than 50 hectares of cassava seed fields across various local governments in the two states with more fields planned for the 2024 season” the statement added.

Noting that  “Typically, yields in Nigeria are less than nine tons per hectare but improved varieties grown by Cassava Seed Entrepreneurs (CSEs) offer 20 tons and above, according to Sasakawa Africa Association. Farmers across the country now aim to achieve higher yields in addition to selling stems for additional income and sustainably facilitate the diffusion of varieties throughout the country” the statement added.

A farmer, Vitalis Iorlaha said “We planted the TME 419 variety and the performance has been awesome. The fact that we can sell the stems and make money from roots and stems gives me a lot of joy. Honestly, this project is a life changer.”

An elated farmer in the community, Mrs Dorathy Amile, said in an interview that apart from exposing farmers to improved cassava varieties, Sasakawa, through the project, supported them with training and inputs that eased cultivation.

“Sasakawa is acting as a catalyst for agricultural development in our community,” said another farmer, Mr Success Agindi. “Getting inputs has not been easy so, we are very grateful for this intervention. Apart from easing our access to inputs, their intervention has enlightened us in terms of how to identify quality and genuine planting materials.”

On becoming seed producers through the project, Rosemary Usoo and Nyitse Nyaregh admitted that even though they were new to the guidelines for seed production being given to them, they were determined to follow through to reap the maximum benefits.

“Those guidelines and recommendations are laid down by the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC),” Jonathan Yassah, the Programme Officer for SAA Market Oriented Agriculture and Focal Person for the BASICS-II project in Benue and Nasarawa States, explained.

“The essence of following them is to ensure that CSEs get the right early-generation planting materials and their fields are certified by NASC so that SAA will be able to link them to markets to sell their stems. The target for a seed producer is the stems, the roots are only additional,” Jonathan added.

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