The Regional Coordinator of the Africa Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Issoufou Abdourrahman Kolo has said that their ongoing cassava mechanization project has increased cassava yield from 8 tons per hectare to 30 tons per hectare in the south west.The South Western part of Nigeria which comprises of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos state have comparative advantage in cassava production and industrialization, as large hectares of cassava farms and lots of cassava processing companies are found in the region.
The AATF cassava mechanization project is targeted are exposing the cassava farmers to already existing technologies which makes cassava farming easier and more profitable. AATF also links the farmers to off-takers who buy off the tubers after harvest.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune in his office in Abuja, Dr Kolo said the problem being faced by farmers in that regions was that cassava price per ton dropped drastically. He, however called for the establishment of more cassava processing factories.
“The project has been well executed for many years and it is getting huge impact in the project areas, the farmers already are procreating themselves with technology and everything we have been doing, it is well established, and it is highly sustainable.
“The problem now is that cassava production is increasing in those areas where the project is operating because the average yield has been increased from 8 to over 30 tons per hectare, but the price of cassava is very low which is about N10,000 per ton. We need to have more cassava processing to get farmers a good price, that’s the problem.
“Cassava is an important food crop in Nigeria, we cannot joke about cassava, it is as important as maize, any move to improve cassava production in Africa has serious impact economically because we improve food security”.
Furthermore, Dr Kolo said that though some processors have their own cassava farm, but AATF had been making serious efforts to ensure they link the farmers to processors who would buy off their tubers immediately they are harvested.
“We link farmers to companies and big traders, there are many people who process Cassava, especially ethanol producers, the came to us, so we are doing our best to link the farmers up to processors.
“Some processors have their own farms, because what they get from farmers is not enough to maintain their companies to operate on full capacity, but we are still working with them, it need to increase because the demand for processed cassava is huge”.
Throwing more light on the technologies they deployed, he said “we created the conditions that allowed farmers to take up the existing technologies, we didn’t invent any new technology. Our biggest achievement was to create the conditions for farmers to adapt, so it is the existing technology, like we imported the cassava Planters and the cassava harvesters, we didn’t manufacture them here, we imported them from Brazil.
“Having technology is one thing, having people to use the technology is another thing, if the right conditions does not exist, the technology will never be taken by farmers no matter how good the technology may be, so we just created the right conditions far farmers adapt. We have mechanized planters, we have cassava harvester, we have all these and this is why the cassava project was working National Agricultural Mechanization Centre in Kwara, we really want to show people that they can mechanize agriculture”.
“The varieties that we are using were mostly brought by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), they are resistant to the African Cassava Mosaic Virus, and some of them showed resistance to bacteria blight, so we use the right varieties”, he added.