For three days, March 27-30, 2017, researchers working under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture led Cassava Weed Management Project (IITA-CWMP), converged at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), to share findings and recommendations on how to tackle weeds in cassava farming systems.
It was a weeklong annual review and planning meeting and Steering Committee. Project Leader of IITA-CWMP, Dr. Alfred Dixon, who is also a Director with IITA, while speaking at the opening ceremony on Monday, said the committee is optimistic that the key findings from the research will help farmers to tackle the problem of weeds in cassava, with the view to having more yield.
Declaring the meeting open, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnership for Delivery, Dr. Kenton Dashiell, said the goal of the project was to take off drudgery due to weeding in cassava farming systems.
Grown on about seven million hectares, cassava is a major staple in Nigeria and it has transited from a food security crop to a cash crop. However, yield per ha of the root crop is about eight tons per ha or less than half the amount realised on research stations. One of the major factors affecting the yield of cassava is weeds. Most of those involved in weeding are women and children, oftentimes skipping classes to assist in weeding in Nigeria.
In 2014, the Cassava Weed Management Project was conceived to address the problem of weeds in cassava. The 5-year project, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is exploring diverse weeds control methods, including the use of simple motorised implements, use of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides, and the use of best-bet agronomic practices.
This year, which is the fourth, researchers, will make available findings of what has been done over the period. Lawrence Kent of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the findings of the project would contribute to improvement of cassava with positive impact on women and children who bear the burden of weeding in cassava.
“Our major task in this meeting is to translate research findings into recommendations that farmers can use to improve cassava farming and their livelihoods,” he said.
Dixon said the project is in an exciting phase. “This is an exciting time for us… Because we are going to begin the sharing of new findings to farmers and farmers will begin to benefit.”