AgriBusiness IITA Partners IFAD-VCDP Towards Zero Hunger

IITA Partners IFAD-VCDP Towards Zero Hunger

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International Institute of Tropical Agricultural (IITA), a non-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation in partnership with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded Value Chain Development Program (VCDP), flagged off a workshop in Makurdi Benue State tagged “Training of Extension Agents and Advisory Providers” under the Zero Hunger Project.

This was done in recognition of the fact that agricultural extension agents serve as the key drivers of information dissemination for farmers and the topics treated were informed by the result of the Need Assessment Survey conducted by the Zero Hunger Project team on the Extension Agents.

The topics covered at the workshop include: Importance of the Cassava Seed System, Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices, Safe Use of Herbicides, Digital tools in Cassava production – Herbicides Calculator, Seed Tracker, Identification and Management of Cassava Pests and Diseases, Business Case for Cassava Seed Production, Cassava Seed Field certification by NASC, Record Keeping, Data Management, and Monitoring and Evaluation.

The formal opening of the workshop on the 19th of August was done by the Hon. Commissioner of Agriculture Benue State (Timothy Ijir PhD.) represented by the Director for Agricultural Services Mr. Thomas Unongo. In his opening remarks appreciated IITA and IFAD-VCDP for putting up the workshop to train extension workers on the best way to go about cassava farming. He also urged participants to take the training seriously so that when they go back to their various communities, they can impart the knowledge acquired from the programme to the local cassava Farmers to help them improve on cassava production in Benue State.

Also in attendance was the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture Benue state in the person of Mrs. Margret Ikpe, who also in her opening remarks urged participants to take the message from the workshop back to farmers and be good advisors to the farmers for better yield so that the core objective of the Zero Hunger project will be achieved.

Also speaking at the event on behalf of the Zero Hunger Project lead (Dr. Debo Akande) the Project Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager, Mr. Oyewale Abioye who presented the result of the Training Needs Assessment Survey conducted by the team, said “the survey revealed that 75 percent  of the Extension Officers are women and 60 percent youths ranging from 18 to 35 years of age which suggest that the state has active extension work force who can be mentored by the older generation to retain institutional memory that helps to improve the Agricultural space because extension workers are the engine room of any kind of transformation that the State Government aims to have. 

He also encouraged female genders to participate more in this kind of programme because statistics have shown that male genders are more into extension work across the country. In his final submission, he highlighted some of the challenges encountered by farmers based on the result of the Survey filled by the Extension Agents which include inadequate access to recommended herbicides, lack of good roads, inadequate access to market information, lack of access to high volume buyers, and lack of improved varieties. “This is why IITA in partnership with IFAD-VCDP came up with this workshop to also partner with other relevant Government Agencies to see ways they can solve these challenges and make cassava farming more attractive to achieve a Zero Hunger society” he added.

Mr. Abioye said “aside from project management, the project has 3 technical components (Policy instruments assessment, Productivity enhancement, and capacity building) to improve the cassava value chain in Benue State”.

Project Manager of a GIZ-funded Cassava/Maize value chain project in IITA, Mr. Godwin Atser who facilitated the training on six steps to cassava weed management which includes site selection, slashing, herbicide application, plowing, and ridging, planting, and weed control, enlightened the extension workers on good varieties of cassava which include TME 419, Dixon, Ayaya, Sunshine, and Fineface which are good varieties of cassava for planting. In his final words, he advised the extension workers to encourage the use of good seeds and very importantly extend the knowledge acquired from the programme to local farmers in their area of operations.

Mrs. Bolanle Olorode (Training Manager for the Zero Hunger project) also facilitated the training on cassava pest and disease identification and management. She highlighted the fact that diseases are caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses as well as insects that causes damage to the plants  either directly or indirectly.

She further highlighted the need for farmers to adopt proper farm sanitation by cleaning farm tools regularly, avoid using infected stems from affected farms as planting materials, dip planting materials in insecticide and fungicide solution in other to prevent these attacks, and ensure the use of improved cassava varieties that are disease resistant. She charged the extension workers to make good use of the knowledge gotten to bring about yield increase to impact the lives of local farmers.

Also commending Zero Hunger Project team from IITA in their partnership effort with the VCDP team in the state was the State Programme coordinator (SPC) Mr. Emmanuel Igbaukum who encouraged the participants to use the training they have gotten to better their lives, he said, “take this training serious, go back to train more seed entrepreneurs so that cassava production will not be an issue in Benue State any longer and always remember to transfer the knowledge to a larger number of Benue Farmers”.

Some of the participants in persons of Mr. Vaa Henry, Miss Laadi Givatese, Mr. Adobunu A John, Mrs. Abba Queen Esther, and IORFA James on behalf of all the Extension Officers, appreciated IITA/IFAD-VCDP for the knowledge imparted on them and promised to go back home ensure knowledge transfer to Benue cassava Farmers.

The workshop continued the second day with presentations from representatives of the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Mr. David Adeyemo, on the requirements for a farmer to become seed entrepreneur, the protocol for seed quality, the procedure for seed certification among others and Representative of Catholic Relief Services, Mr. Tosin Oni who made a presentation on “The Business of Cassava Seeds”. He emphasized the role that seed plays in the value chain for cassava and the need to get certified by NASC for farmers to maximize the benefits in the cassava value chain. 

The IFAD funded Zero Hunger Project team taught the Extension Agents on how to use the Open Data Kit (ODK) for data collection and guided the participants on how to profile farmers and register events using the ODK tool. The workshop came to an end with closing remarks from Dr. Debo Akande (the Project Lead), represented by Mr. Godwin Atser (Project Manager, GIZ-GIAE/IITA Cassava and Maize Value Chain Project) who thanked and encouraged the participants to make use of what they have learned for the betterment of themselves and that of the cassava Farmers in Benue State as the food basket of the nation.

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