The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and its partners are working to provide African farmers with access to affordable, disease-free seeds of cassava varieties in demand by local food and processor markets through a program called Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS).
Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s director general, remarked that the program will catalyze the diffusion of new cassava varieties and at the same time provide a window of opportunity for cassava farmers to create new lines of income.
Alfred Dixon, director for development and& delivery , at IITA, exclaimed that the most exciting part of the program is that it will not create seed enterprises alone but will also increase the dissemination and adoption of improved, high- yield and quality-assured cassava varieties to farmers.
BASICS began in Nigeria in 2015 with the creation of 150 cassava seed enterprises in Benue, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Imo States, instituted to multiply and sell cassava stems. It addresses cassava production constraints surrounding access to planting materials through the development and promotion of commercial models for seed provision.
The program recently benefited from a new $14.3 million investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to consolidate and broaden this work under the project name BASICS-II.
Lawrence Kent, senior program officer, for the Gates Foundation, said: “This new phase of the BASICS project will strengthen and expand its innovative approach to the supply of cassava planting materials, helping farmers in Nigeria, and eventually additional countries to access and purchase disease-free stems of the most productive, most demanded, and promising cassava varieties.”
Lateef Sanni, project manager, for BASICS-II, explained that the project will change the poor- yield narratives associated with cassava, which is known as a poverty fighter and is grown mostly by poor farmers.