The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) to build and promote a cassava seed system that will enhance the adoption of cassava stems of improved varieties meant to boost the productivity of cassava farmers in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by IITA’s digital extension and advisory specialist, Godwin Aster, on Monday.
According to the statement, the signed MoU is a 5-year tripartite agreement endorsed under the IITA Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed Systems, Phase 2 (BASICS-II).
The statement said the three institutions will leverage on one another’s capabilities and strength in advancing the development of an economically sustainable cassava seed sector in Nigeria by collaborating to organised advocacy programs, training of farmers and the promotion of the use of improved disease-free varieties of cassava stems.
BASICS– I & II Projects
BASICS-II, launched by IITA in July, is the second phase of BASICS-I, which between 2015 and 2020, facilitated the development of Village Seed Entrepreneurs (VSEs) in Nigeria.
It is a five-year project, supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) with the hope of transforming the cassava seed sector by promoting the dissemination of improved varieties, hence creating a community of seed entrepreneurs across the cassava value chain.
The project is currently focused on Nigeria and Tanzania with spin off to other African countries.
IITA is a non-profit institution that offers research partnerships that facilitate agricultural solutions to hunger, poverty, and natural resource degradation throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
During his remarks at the formalisation ceremony of the contract held via Zoom, IITA’s deputy director general, partnerships for delivery, Kenton Dashiell, was quoted to have said “it is through partnerships like this that IITA can transform African Agriculture as our tagline says.”
He said by leveraging partnerships, IITA always wants to see farmers record higher yields, see reduced importation of food and see better standards of living.
In a similar manner, IITA’s director, development and delivery office, Alfred Dixon, said that the partnership would leverage on the existence of PIND and NRCRI as development institutions in the Niger Delta and South East regions respectively, to help sustain the outcomes of the BASICS-II project in the regions even after its 5-year duration.
Elated PIND’s Executive Director, Dara Akala, explained that a key component of PIND was economic development, and that the cassava value chain was crucial due to the fact that the sector has a large number of poor farmers in the Niger Delta region.
“So, there is an overlap of interest and that is why this partnership with IITA and NRCRI is very important,” he said.
“We want to leverage the resources, knowledge and expertise of the two research institutions to be able to maximize our own development output and at the same time bring out our network and relationships with farmers and state actors in the Nigeria Delta region into the partnership so that we can all achieve our common goals,” Mr Akala said.
The Project Manager, BASICS-II, Lateef Sanni, while highlighting the tasks before the new partners, said that three major tasks stand before the partners in the year 2021.
“For the year 2021, we need to organize more training on seed production and the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management toolkit which will be used to produce certified stems,” he said.
Mr Sanni said: “we need to ensure rapid multiplication of seeds and mass production of quality seeds in the Niger Delta; and organize an advocacy summit to promote the adoption and use of cassava stems of improved varieties while reducing undue interferences in the seed system.”
“IITA’s Deputy Director General, Partnership for Delivery, Dr Kenton Dashiell; Executive Director of NRCRI, Prof Joseph Ukpabi; and PIND Executive Director, Dr. Dara Akala, all signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organizations,” the statement reads.