Dr Stella Ama Ennin, Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – Crop Research Institute (CRI), has called on crop scientists to help improve the production of cassava not only in Ghana but in the West African sub-region.
She explained that apart from the multiple products, cassava provided for about 500 million Africans and some 25 million Ghanaians and also contributed to the sub-African trade.
Dr Ennin made these known at the opening of a two-day West Africa Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for root and tuber crops’ workshop to design plans to mitigate threats on cassava in Ghana.
It is being held in Accra and sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UKaid and the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny, and attracted scientists from CSIR, CRI, Ministry of Food And Agriculture, farmers and other stakeholders.
She expressed discontentment about the fact that Africa produced 57 per cent of the world’s cassava but had the lowest yields on an average of 10 tonnes per hectare compared to 21.34 tonnes per hectare in Asia.
Dr Ennin however said Africa’s cassava varieties had the potential to exceed 40 tonnes per hectare if fully exploited, adding that, an estimated 25 tonnes per hectare by 2050 would have to be produced due to population growth and urbanisation.
“Despite cassava’s significant nutrition, health and economic importance, its cultivation is impeded by several constraints, among them are the African Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), which are the most damaging,” she noted.
She said as a result of its geographical distribution, CMD, caused by the Geminivirus, constituted the most eminent constraint to cassava production, leading to 40-70 per cent yield loss.
When that happened, a yearly amount of two to three billion dollars were lost in the sub-Saharan Africa and therefore called on scientists to work hard in curbing the situation.
By so doing, they would be complementing government’s effort in eradicating pest and diseases towards Ghana’s agricultural productivity for improved food security and poverty reduction for sustainable development and also create jobs under the one district one factory as well as the planting for food and jobs projects.
She urged participants to assist in developing a national response plan for controlling cassava viral diseases and to halt the progressive CBSD to West Africa, which had already affected East Africa.
She called for the strengthening of the Planting Protection and Regulative System to check the activities at the borders to avoid diseased sticks from being brought into Ghana.
Nana Fobi Kropa III, Chief of Apemanim, Ashanti and chair for the occasion urged the experts to go beyond the extension officers to sell new ways of improving cassava cultivation.
He said it was time the scientists took advantage of traditional council meetings to propagate ways such as getting clean planting materials, farm sanitations and others to farmers.
Dr Allen Oppong, a representative of WAVE in Ghana, in a presentation said, WAVE aims at improving food security through regional coordination to manage root and tuber viral diseases.
The WAVE is present in seven countries; Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivore.