Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IITA DG calls for a “Brown Revolution” for a “Green Revolution” in Africa

The push for a “Green Revolution” in Africa to increase agricultural production for food and economic development will not bear much fruit if adequate attention is not paid to managing soil fertility in the continent.  
Dr Sanginga making a presentation on Brown Revolution at the
 Global Cassava Partnership conference in Kampala, Uganda.
According to Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, Africa cannot achieve a “Green Revolution” without first having a “Brown Revolution”. He noted that the current application of 8 kg/ha of soil nutrients, whether organic or inorganic fertilizers, was very low and was a major setback to the continent’s vision of adequately feeding itself.

Dr Sanginga spoke at the Global Cassava Partnership meeting currently taking place this week in Kampala, Uganda, that brought together over 400 international scientists from all over the world to strategize on how cassava can play a bigger role in economic development by exploiting the diverse uses of this hardy crop. Cassava performs well under harsh conditions, such as poor soils and drought.

The conference was launched by the Honourble Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Hon Tress Bucyanayandi who noted that frequent droughts and floods as a result of climate change were one of the leading causes of food insecurity in the world today with millions of USD going into emergency food aid.

The Guest of honour Hon Tess Bucyanayandi makes
opening remarks. 
He noted that cassava was a crop that performs well in drought conditions and is becoming an important food security crop. He therefore urged the researchers gathered at the conference to develop solutions to some of the challenges facing the production of the crop in the region such as Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), the two diseases wreaking havoc on the crop’s production. 

Participants following workshop proceedings
Dr Eugene Terry from Transfarm Africa noted that a number of efforts to transform cassava were already underway in the region starting with the development and deployment of improved better yielding varieties by IITA. He noted that over 80% of the new varieties released by national programs in Africa had incorporated these varieties released in the 1970’s and dubbed TMS series.

He said there were many challenges facing the transformation of the crop that needed to be tackled through research including control of pests and diseases and the need for early maturing and drought tolerant varieties. On marketing issues, he said there was need to research on better organization of value chains, better infrastructure support and how to reduce transaction costs.

Dr Sanginga on his part told the conference participants that while much investment had gone into developing high-yielding cassava varieties that were resistant to some of the major pests and diseases, the gains achieved cannot be realized if these varieties are grown in poor soils.

He said it was unfortunate that cassava had been tagged for many years as a poor man’s crop that does not require much input such as fertilizers. He argued that the crop harvested as much nutrients from the soil as other crops and that these nutrients needed to be replenished. It also requires nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium similar to other crops.

“Nutrient use in cassava has been very minimal as it is considered a poor man’s crop. However, if we are talking about cassava transformation, about increasing cassava production not only for food but also for commercial use, we must change these wrong perceptions. If we think of growing cassava in soils that are too poor for other crops such as maize,” he said, “then, we are missing the other half of the equation.”

The African Union has recommended for the countries in the continent to increase application of soil nutrients to 50 kg/ha of nutrients combining both organic and inorganic fertilizers.

The Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) conference is taking place on 18–22 June 2012 in Kampala, Uganda. GCP21 consists of 45 member institutions working on research and development of cassava, a staple crop relied on by more than 700 million people worldwide. The ultimate goal of the partnership is to improve cassava productivity through scientific research and development. 
Group photo of participants
The conference participants include representatives from NARS, international agricultural research centers, advanced laboratories and universities from developed and developing countries, United Nations’ agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, donor and development organizations, businesses in the ag-biotechnology and food processing industries.

No comments:

Post a Comment