The African Development Bank (AfDB) has said that it will invest $120 million between the next three years to boost the productivity of cassava and eight other commodities on the continent. The nine commodities are cassava, rice, maize, sorghum/millet, wheat, livestock, aquaculture, high iron beans and orange fleshed sweet potatoes.
According to Director for Agriculture, Dr. Martin Fregene who spoke at the fourth international conference on cassava, being organized by the Global Cassava Partnerships for the 21st Century, GCP21, in Cotonou, Benin Republic“Transforming cassava on the African continent would help African nations to cut imports and redirect about $1.2billion into African domestic economies” .
The cassava conference is being attended by more than 450 local and international partners in the cassava sector, coming from research and development organizations, government, farming community, and the private sector.
The bank’s investment in cassava comes at a time when African governments are scaling up efforts to end food imports and create wealth.
Fregene said cassava is a strategic crop for Africa’s food security and wealth creation for youth, and women, adding that “another dimension to the importance of cassava is in nutrition where cassava can enhance the nutrition of children directly or as feed for poultry and other livestock.”
With the largest volume of cassava coming from Africa, cassava supports more than 350 million people in Africa.
The Minister of Agriculture for the Republic of Benin, Dr. Gaston Dossouhoui said cassava remained the cheapest staple consumed by Africans, adding that “addressing the constraints of cassava production in Africa will have a positive impact on African farmers.”
He lauded AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina for his commitment of investing in agriculture and cassava, in particular.
The minister also commended the GCP21 for organizing the cassava conference, emphasising that it would contribute to knowledge sharing that would help in removing the bottlenecks in the cassava sector.
Deputy Director-General for Partnerships for Delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Kenton Dashiell, said unlocking the potential of cassava required partnerships and close collaboration of partners to address the constraints facing cassava.