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New, Improved Cassava Varieties’ Launch Excite Kogi Farmers

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From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja

The NextGen Cassava Project, being implemented by Cornell University, New York, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), has launched new, improved cassava varieties in Kogi state.

The new, improved varieties include: Game Changer, Baba 70 and Poundable, which were part of the varieties released in 2020, was launched at Crest Agro Farms along Kabba-Lokoja Expressway, Lokoja over the weekend.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ismail Rabbi, a molecular geneticist and plant breeder with IITA, stated that years of consumer preference studies were conducted before releasing the varieties.

“In addition to high yield and stress tolerance, we found that these varieties are suitable for several agro-ecologies.

“Farmers, processors and consumers love these varieties because they were high-yielding, stress-tolerant, disease-resistant and had the right food properties.

“I am confident that farmers who adopt these varieties will make more profit and improve their livelihoods. These varieties are also a huge contribution to food security,” he said.

He explained that when cultivated with good agronomic practices and weed control, the new varieties produce more than 30 tons per hectare instead of the current national average yield of eight tons per hectare.

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According to him, while Game Changer can produce 32 tons per hectare, Baba 70 can produce 38 tons per hectare. It was also proven that the new cultivars were drought-tolerant and resistant to the virus diseases of cassava.

As part of the inauguration, farmers and processors were taken to the field where the varieties were planted alongside an old improved variety, TME 419, 11 months ago and managed by Crest Agro.

After an assessment of the field as well as the plant architecture, the farmers participated in harvesting some of the roots to compare with TME 419.

The farmers expressed awe at the large sizes and number of roots produced by the varieties. They spoke about the difference between the new varieties and the old ones, saying Baba 70 and Game Changer were far ahead of the TME 419 they were used to. Some took a few stems to plant on their fields, saying they would love to adopt the new varieties.

There was also a demonstration of the processing of the new varieties to prove that their dry matter and starch contents were high and of great food value.

The participants witnessed the entire process from the farm to the table where they consumed garri, eba and fufu, chips and chinchin made from the two varieties.

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The meals were consumed with vegetable and egusi stew made with cassava leaves.

Speaking on the field, Dr. Vishnuardhan Banda, Product Manager for Crop Variety Development, IITA, expressed joy that the farmers and processors were happy with the new varieties and eager to plant them on their farms.

He however urged them to always send feedback on the performance of the varieties to the researchers.

“We want you to work with us. You are very important in the process of crop improvement. You are the farmers and the first consumers. We urge you to always tell us how these varieties are performing on your various farms.

You have seen that these are very good varieties but we know that in years to come, you would need something new. Just keep giving us feedback about farmers’ choices and complaints, and we the breeders will be working with that information to give you new and better products.”

Ambassador Jaiyeola Lewu, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, and now a farmer, was present at the event.

While commending the NextGen project and the IITA and NRCRI scientists, Lewu described the varieties as game changers in the agricultural sector, saying “farmers will benefit immensely from them.”

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He urged the project leaders to ensure that the products were available and assessible to the farmers who need them.

In his response, Dr. Godwin Atser, the Advocacy, Outreach and Promotions Lead of the IITA Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) project, who spoke on behalf of Prof. Lateef Sanni, the Project Manager, stated that the BASICS-II project is using a seed system model to ensure that farmers get access to new and improved varieties.

“There is no gainsaying that farmers need new and improved varieties to improve their livelihoods, ensure food security and contribute to economic development. .

“That is why we created the BASICS model, which links Cassava Breeding Programs with Early Generation Seed Companies like IITA GoSeed and Umudike Seed to multiply the foundation seeds that are passed on to cassava seed entrepreneurs who produce certified seeds for onward dissemination to farmers,” he said.

Present at the product launch were farmers, processors, and representatives from Kogi State Ministry of Agriculture, Kogi State Agricultural Development Program, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and other public and private sector stakeholders. IITA and NRCRI scientists were also in attendance.

Agriculture

Veterinarians urge Govts to review Hazard Allowance of Members

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The Conference of Directors of Veterinary Services in South-West region says there is a need for federal and state governments to review hazard allowance paid to veterinaries.

Dr Taiwo Jolaoso, the Chairman, Conference of Directors of Veterinary Services in the region, said this at the maiden symposium of the Conference of Directors of Veterinary Services in South-West on Thursday in Lagos.

He said that in the face of global health challenges the review was to compensate for harms, risks and burdens associated with working as health personnel.

Newsmen report that the theme of the one-day symposium was: “The Significance of Veterinary Service Delivery in Livestock Production”.

According to him, veterinary professionals are pivotal in the improvement and protection of animal and human health, animal welfare, food quality, food safety, food security, ecology, ethology and epidemiology.

“They also help in development of drugs and pharmaceuticals, wild life conservation, educators, trainers and policy makers.

“The significance of the veterinarian in combating these diseases, preventing spread and ameliorating their effects cannot be over emphasised.

“Veterinarians as “front liners” were exposed to a high risk of contracting emerging, re-emerging and zoonotic diseases (Ebola, Leptospirosis, Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Anthrax and others.

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“This justify the need for payment of hazard allowance to compensate for harms, risks and burdens associated with working as health personnel.

“Unfortunately, our services are undervalued and we are underpaid and the supposed hazard allowance veterinarians receive now is at best a farce.

“A first-order priority for policy makers should be keeping front line health workers and veterinarians safe on the job and payment of generous hazard allowance to compensate these officers and their families for the essential services they provide for public good.

Jolaoso noted that the symposium was aimed at creating awareness of some of the animal diseases with emphasis on methods of mitigating them.

In a goodwill message, the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Dr Maimuna Abdullahi-Habib, urged the DVS to familiarise themselves with recent laws guiding the profession to enable them do their jobs diligently.

Ms Abisola Olusanya, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, said that South-West was not very rich in livestock with only less than 10 per cent of the nation’s cattle and five per cent of small ruminants.

Olusanya was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs Tokunbo Emokpae.

She said that to improve its position, Lagos had started the implementation of the cattle feedlot at Igbodu for increased local production of hygienic wholesome meat and reduction of dependency on imports from other states.

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“As a form of improvement, government is in the process of recruiting more veterinary doctors to mitigate the effect of the current dearth in the distribution of veterinary doctors to livestock estates and settlements with a ratio of about 1:200.

“The low access to veterinary doctors in the veterinary centres in the state encourages some farmers to resort to using unapproved antibiotics for their livestock.

“Also, there is a need to track and identify effective vaccines that would stem the improper and excessive use of antibiotics, as well as, inadequate infection prevention and control,” she said.

Olusanya assured the stakeholders that the Lagos State Government had mapped out various strategies in its food systems and agricultural roadmap to ensure that Lagosians and the South-west states had access to wholesome and hygienic red-meat amongst other food.

She also solicited support from all willing stakeholders to be partners in the progress of the sector.

Dr Abubakar Suleiman, the Assistant Representative Programme, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO), said that feedlotting remains the best option for not just Lagos and the South-West region alone, but the entire country.

Suleiman spoke as the lead speaker on “Historical Perspective of Cattle Feedlotting in South West Nigeria.”

He called for an animal breeding policy in the country for uniformity of products, structured markets, as well as an enabling environment, surveillance and sanitary conditions amongst other recommendations.

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The President, Nigeria Association of Animal Health and Husbandry Technologists, Mr Saliu Abubakar, called on government at all levels to protect farmers from bandits.

The maiden symposium was attended by Commissioners for Agriculture in Ogun, Osun, Oyo, veterinarians, livestock farmers and traders, as well as consumers. (NAN)

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Agriculture

FG Inaugurates National Cocoa Management Committee  

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The Federal Government on Tuesday inaugurated the National Cocoa Management Committee (NCMC), to tackle some of the challenges in the cocoa sector.

Speaking at the inauguration of the 11-man Committee on National Cocoa Management, in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar,  said the committee was to develop strategies to solve these challenges.

“Some of the challenges being encountered in the cocoa sector include pest and diseases, logistics such as rural roads and infrastructure.

“Also, old cocoa plantations, ageing of our cocoa farmers, processing, access to finance, environmental concerns such as deforestation, climate change and absence of a national coordinating body,” Abubakar said.

The minister said the event was the culmination of enormous collective efforts including a recent visit by the officials of  the ministry to Ghana to study the implementation of Living Income Differential (LID).

“Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire introduced the Living Income Differential (LID) as a premium on their cocoa and as tool to complement their prices of cocoa in international market.

“The purpose of this is to increase the share benefits received by cocoa farmers in these countries,” Abubakar said.

He spoke on the tetms of reference of the committee, some of which are:

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“The NCMC shall develop a framework for the regulation and monitoring of the activities of the cocoa sector to make the industry more transparent.

“The NCMC shall develop a strategic plan towards the establishment of a Nigerian Cocoa Board.

“The NCMC shall develop a Nigerian charter towards joining the Ghana/Cote d’Ivoire initiative”.

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, of the Ministry, Dr Ernest Umakhihe, expressed delight for being part of the inauguration of the committee.

“This is in line with the present Administration’s policy on diversification of the Nigerian economy from the oil to the non-oil sector of which Agriculture is playing a major role,” Umakhihe said.

The Committee chairman is Mr Abdullahi Garba Abubakar, from the
Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Abuja.

The Secretary, Dr Patrick Adebola, is from Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria. (NAN)

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Agriculture

OYSADA Onboards 100 YEAP Beneficiaries for Enterprise Support

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The Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) has onboarded beneficiaries of the Youths Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness (YEAP) in crop production enterprise.

This is contained in a statement by Dr Wasiu Olatubosun, the State Commissioner Information, Culture and Tourism, which was made available to newsmen on Sunday in Ibadan.

Newsmen report that youths were part of the 3, 300 beneficiaries who received training at CSS Farms, Nasarawa State, in 2021.

In his remarks, Dr Debo Akande, the OYSADA Director-General, said that the onboarding and orientation marked the beginning of the project’s second phase for the beneficiaries.

Akande said that each of the 100 beneficiaries would get land allocations for crop production at Fasola Agribusiness Industrial Hub.

“As part of their orientation, youths had been taken to the allocated land, where land preparation is ongoing.

“The youth will get inputs as needed, as they embark on land cultivation and crop production.

“They will also get technical and agricultural extension support from OYSADA,” he said.

Akande urged other YEAP beneficiaries to be patient with the state government, saying that the authorities were working assiduously to ensure that more beneficiaries get the needed support.

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He said about 120 beneficiaries had received enterprise support from the state government prior to this project, adding that more would be empowered as funds are available.

The director-general said that the state government’s approach in offering practical training to youths was superior to simply giving handouts and funds to individuals that would not contribute to economic growth.

Akande thanked youths who were already using the knowledge they acquired during the training to improve their existing businesses, urging others to emulate them.

NAN reports that part of the programme were representatives of the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NCARES).

Also, as part of the support to YEAP beneficiaries, the Oyo Arm of NCARES tagged: “Oyo-CARES” would be profiling YEAP beneficiaries who already have agribusinesses for further support.(NAN)

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