Improving cassava production
Is cassava the crop of the future for food and nutrition security and industrial development? Not unless, we increase investments in science, technology and innovation. An interesting presentation on the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st century (GCP 21) by Dr Claude Fauquet at CTA Headquarters on 28 March 2013 triggered further reflection on the need for a coordinated approach to cassava development.
Dr Fauquet indicated that 105 countries produce cassava; 50% of which are in Africa where surface area is almost double that of Asia and Latin America. However, yield is lower (10t/ha) as compared to 12t/ha and 19t/ha in Latin America and Asia, respectively. What is the role of African universities and research organisations in driving the research and development agenda for cassava on the continent? Which organisations are studying future consumer and industry trends for cassava?
Which are leading programmes on: (i) documenting and characterising cassava landraces, farmer knowledge and practices; (ii) the performance of various varieties and landraces under changing climatic conditions including for drought and pest resistance; (iii) new product development for food and other industrial uses; (iv) increasing yield potential; (v) standardising height of plants (dwarf varieties) and size of roots to support industry expansion for food products, starch or animal feed etc.?
Work is going on at some leading international centres and in collaboration with national R&D organisations to produce virus-free varieties through genetic engineering and on rapid multiplication but while these are critical research areas, the success of a cassava ‘green revolution’ in Africa or world-wide requires interlinked thinking, an innovation systems approach, foresight, investments in science and engineering, an enabling policy and institutional framework and visionary leadership from scientists/academicians, policy/governments and the private sector including farmers.