Stories tagged: cassava

Louis Malassis Prize Shortlist: The Story Behind the Science of Professor Hervé Vanderschuren

Farming First is pleased to act as media partner for the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize and the inaugural Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security. Our new blog series will showcase stories from scientists nominated for these prestigious prizes.

The seventh blog in this series outlines the work of Professor Hervé Vanderschuren (ETH Zurich & University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech), nominated for the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Young Promising Scientist. Continue reading

Video: Mark Lynas – The Human Face of the GM Debate

Pauline Auma of Busia district, western Kenya, proudly shows her cassava harvest. Photo by A. Fermont, IITA.

In the latest episode of the new Farming First TV series, we speak to environmentalist and author Mark Lynas about the continuing debate surrounding genetically modified (GM) foods.

Drawing on the example of cassava in East Africa, Lynas notes that although scientists have developed a biotech, virus-resistant solution for the crop, farmers may not be able to access it. “It’s really very tragic because it’s holding back technology that has the potential to do a lot of good,” he comments.

“I like to put a human face on the beneficiaries,” Lynas told us. “Technology has transformed all of our lives, it is probably biggest driver of change. Why should it be any different in Africa? When you want change, because people are living in poor, subsistence situations, why should those be the ones who have the least access to technology?”

Watch our video for the full interview with Mark Lynas.

Supporting Smallholder Cassava Farmers in Nigeria

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Scott Mall – International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC)

The Cassava Plus project is a public-private partnership initiative helping farmers grow cassava for profit. The project is supported by Nigeria’s Taraba, Osun and Benue state governments, implemented by IFDC (a public international organization) and DADTCO (a Netherlands-based for-profit company) and funded by the Schokland Fund of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

With over 38 million metric tons of harvested fresh cassava roots per year, Nigeria is the largest cassava-producing nation in the world. An estimated seven to eight million Nigerian farm families grow cassava, which serves as an important staple food crop for both rural and urban populations in many countries in Africa. In addition to its role as a traditional subsistence crop that provides food security insurance, cassava has great market potential as a source of flour and thus can serve as a partial substitute for imported wheat flour.

IFDC will organize and link farmers to the downstream DADTCO value chain and develop the capacity of farmers, agro-input dealers and other market players. These actions will support commercial production, reduce the mining of soil nutrients and make cassava production environmentally and economically sustainable. The Cassava Plus project has the potential to help change cassava from a subsistence to a cash crop, helping farm families maximize their incomes while also improving agricultural practices and soil fertility.

Climate Change Mitigation Strategies in Gabon Help to Preserve National Crop

Gabon is known for its forest that covers 85% of the country, or 22 million hectares. Only 5% of the land is used for agriculture, and subsistence farming dominates the sector.  The principle crop grown by the farmers is manioc, or cassava root, which is an essential source of iron and vitamins for the population. The best quality manioc is grown in deep and rich soils that are well drained. Heavy rainfalls mean, however, that the ground becomes waterlogged and disease spreads easily amongst the crops.

A case study by IFAP shows how strategies have been put into place to safeguard the manioc crops from the higher temperatures and heavy rains brought on by climate change.

In order to preserve the most beneficial varieties, both economically and ecologically, agricultural researchers identified the local varieties that were best adapted to climate changes, and then helped to promote the most effective farming techniques amongst the farmers to increase productivity.

On a national level, policies are being put in place to establish agroforestry projects in rural areas to increase soil fertility as well as to invest and improve their weather stations to observe changes in the climate. Agricultural organisations are also training farmers in the techniques needed to restore soils.

Through an integrated approach to improving agricultural practices and resources, farmers in Gabon are becoming increasingly able to cope with unpredictable weather patterns and safeguard an important source of nutrients for the Gabonese people.