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New Cassava Varieties Introduced In Cameroon 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai & *Comfort Akwen*
 

CameroonPostline.com — Five new improved varieties of cassava have been made available to Cameroonian farmers thanks to researchers of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, and their counterparts of the Agricultural Research for Development, IRAD.


 

While IITA has its headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, with a research for development station in Yaounde, IRAD is a research institution under Cameroon’s Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation. Naming the new varieties and endorsing them for planting by Cameroonian farmers on September 11 in Nkolbisson, Yaounde, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, MINADER, Essimi Menye, said the use of cassava goes beyond the food items produced from the root crop.
 

Quoting the example of Thailand, the highest world exporter of cassava and related products, the Minister said the staple food of that country is rice, but that they are generating enormous foreign income from the sale of cassava products, an example he urged Cameroonians to emulate.
 

He said the role of Government, through MINADER, is to promote and encourage the farmers to plant the new varieties, which, according to him, constitute the best seeds which guarantee best yields. He hoped the researchers would keep on working so that one day production will go beyond the 35 to 40 tons per hectare as it is the case with the new varieties.
 

The new varieties which IITA officials said were named by local farmers in various localities of Cameroon are Abui-Pkwem (lot of leaves), Nko’h Menzui (produce much cassava), Abeng-Lengon (pretty woman), Ayeng ye-sahti (long leaves) and Mbong Wa Tobo (clean cassava).
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation, the Secretary General, Rebecca Ebelle Etame, revealed that Cameroon produces about 2.4 million tons of cassava per year and is consumed in various forms.
 

She noted that between 1960 and 1975, local varieties dominated farming landscapes and between 1980 and 1990, new varieties emerged. She said, since then, improved varieties resistant to pests and all sorts of diseases are being introduced thanks to research. Mrs. Etame used the occasion to highlight the problems plaguing the production of cassava, and encouraged IITA and IRAD to continue to demonstrate commitment in seeking solutions to such problems in order to enhance yields.
 

Meanwhile, in an address, the Resident Representative of IITA Cameroon, Dr. Rachid Hanna, said the Africa-based international research-for-development organisation was established in 1967 and works in partnership with other research institutions in finding solutions to hunger and poverty. Disclosing that IITA has covered much of Sub Saharan Africa, Rachid stated that in Cameroon the “institution operates on the conviction of seeking solutions to the complex problems of agriculture.” 
 

He maintained that the new varieties of cassava grow faster, produce high yields, mature earlier, and tolerate major diseases and pests. All the five ecological regions of Cameroon are adapted to at least one of the five new varieties. The Ibadan-based Director General of IITA, Dr. Ntaranya Sangenga, said only three continents notably: Africa, Latin America and South East Asia produce cassava.

He noted that in Africa, Nigeria is the highest producer, second by Congo and followed by Cameroon. He said thanks to 15-year long research by IITA, the government of Nigeria has made it a policy that 40 percent of cassava flour must constitute the paste for the making of bread. Ntaranya stated that such a policy has helped to take up the prices of cassava in the markets to the benefit of the local farmers.
 

He announced that IITA is setting up and training groups of young people who are ready to engage in the production and transformation of cassava. He talked of Nigerians who are currently in Malawi at the request of that government to help the country embark on massive production of cassava, and hoped countries like Cameroon, Congo and Tanzania could do the same.
 

He disclosed that cassava is not produced in Europe and America but countries in these regions host the largest laboratories working on the transformation of the crop. “Cassava producers in Africa can form a consortium similar to that of petroleum and they will be able to impose their own prices,” Dr. Ntaranya advised.
 

Another speaker at the occasion was the Coordinator of the National Root and Tuber Development Programme, PNDRT, of Cameroon, Ngwe Bissa. He expounded on the collaboration between IITA and IRAD on the one hand and PNDRT on the other which, according to him, is yielding fruits today.
*(ASMAC Student On Internship)
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01374

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