Efforts are on by Harvest Plus, an international organisation, through its partners, to promote youth involvement in cassava production and create a sustainable means of livelihood for them. The goal is to transform cassava into a money spinner, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Cassava is driving industrial development while delivering incomes to farmers. This is coming on the heels of the rising demand for garri, feed and other derivatives. Stakeholders, however, believe Nigerians cannot meet its potential for growth if it does not increase production and opportunities along the value chains are not explored.
Harvest Plus, an international organisation, is offering Nigerians income-earning opportunities in the cassava industry to pursue their farming businesses. Among the beneficiaries are young people and women.
Working with Harvest Plus, Director, Development Dynamics, Owerri, Imo State, Dr. Jude Ohanele, said the organisation was collaborating with the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (FUTO) and the Rotary Club of Aladinma, Owerri to get young school leavers and undergraduates to take to agriculture and become successful entrepreneurs.
The partnership is anchored by a student body, ENACTUS.
He said the organisation was promoting cassava as a viable agri-business for undergraduates in FUTO, and also encouraging youth enterprise.
Ohanele said the organisation was determined to promote youth enterprise, using opportunities provided by Vitamin A cassava.
His firm helps youths to reposition for entrepreneurship and employment by exploring business opportunities in bio-fortified foods introduced by Harvest Plus.
It works in villages, providing training, and organising field days with extension specialists and farmers.
Akwa Ibom State University’s (AKSU’s) partner and cassava enterprise development specialist Dr. Edna Akpan said the partners were promoting business opportunities through the sale and distribution of pro Vitamin A weaning formula for babies.
The producers tapped into the nutritional content of Vitamin A cassava to produce what they hoped would “tackle the challenge of malnutrition.”
She said the level of adoption of Vitamin A cassava in the state was huge and demand high, creating opportunities for farmers and processors who wanted added value to Vitamin A cassava.
Since Harvest Plus started working on improving the cassava value chain for small-scale farmers in the state, Dr Akpan said their income and livelihood had improved as well as their knowledge of the market.
Apart from scaling out hectares of improved cassava varieties, she added that the group has distributed cassava stems to 200 farming households. In addition, she said there was focus on training youths on improving cassava yields and output, primarily to increase national food security. This is achieved through distribution of bio-fortified and higher-yielding cultivars to them.
She said the AKSU, Akwa Ibom State Agricultural Development Project (AKADEP) the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DfID) Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE) are working in partnership with HarvestPlus Nigeria to mainstream vitamin A cassava into the state’s business space.
Harvest Plus’ Country Manager Paul Ilona urged the partners to ensure that their efforts caused the desired change in agricultural practices, nutrition and enterprise, noting that much as there desired to expand to other states, there was a need to strengthen relations among partners in the state.
A partner, Mrs Martha Akoje in Benue State said her team has been able to distribute about 40,000 bio-fortified stems to farmers.
She said farmers received planting materials to multiply and were trained on how to ensure the highest yields and healthiest crops.
To stimulate partnerships for investment in the food and agricultural sectors, Ilona said the organisation‘s annual Nutritious Food Fair (NFF) would hold between November 9 and 11 at Tinapa and the Calabar International Convention Center (CICC), in Cross River State. Expected guests at the event include Cross River State governor, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade; his Anambra State counterpart, Chief Willie Obiano; Ministers of Agriculture and Health, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Prof. Isaac Adewole, respectively and World Food Prize Winners, Dr. Howarth Boius and Dr. Jan Low, among others.
He said the event would hold in Calabar and that there was no commercial intention in organising the fair which aims to bring together heavy weights in the industrial sector, food processors and farmers, so as to create necessary linkages and forge partnerships in the nutritious foods value chain.
“This year’s event would hold in Calabar. It is titled: Multisectoral Partnership To Promote More Nutritious Crops and Foods. We, as always, do not have a commercial intention. We want to create linkages to promote partnerships in the nutritious food sector. We are providng a platform for conversation on and around nutrition, not in terms of quantity, but quality. We are using the fair as medium to get big industries to explore home grown sources of nutritious staples as raw materials for their products,” he said.
Ilona said yields and nutritional quality were important factors from a household food and nutrition security point of view, which the organisation was offering Nigerians through bio-fortified maize and cassava.
Harvest Plus leads a global effort to breed and disseminate micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger among malnourished populations. It is an inter-disciplinary programme that works with academic and research institutions, civil society organisations, governments, and the private sector in more than 40 countries.
The post Boosting cassava production through youth empowerment appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.
Source:: The Nation