OVER FIVE HUNDRED CASSAVA FARMERS AND AGRIC EXTENSION OFFICERS BENEFIT FROM “TOGETHER LET’S SAVE OUR CASSAVA” CAMPAIGN
The CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Ghana’s foremost agricultural research institute has intensified its campaign against cassava diseases particularly those caused by viruses in the country. Dubbed, “Together, let’s save our cassava”, the campaign sought to create awareness on the major diseases that adversely affect productivity of the crop and sensitize farmers on how to identify and mitigate against such diseases to promote food security.
Over five hundred (500) cassava farmers and Agric Extension officers selected from four important cassava growing districts across the country; Asesewa, Upper Manya Krobo (Eastern region), Wenchi (Bono region), Atebubu-Amantin (Bono East region) and Akatsi (Volta region) directly benefitted from the campaign. Millions of people also benefitted indirectly through several media outlets. In each district, the participants were informed about the need for the campaign which is to raise awareness on the increasing threats cassava viral diseases pose to the crop in Ghana and on the African continent. They were advised to apply the knowledge gained from the campaign in order not to only increase their yields but also achieve sustainable production of the crop.
The “SAVE OUR CASSAVA” campaign is one of several activities under the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for root and tuber crops project, which seeks to equip and prepare scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders on the need to take pre-emptive steps aimed at protecting citizens from famine caused by viral diseases on cassava and other root and tuber crops. In additon, WAVE aims to understand and predict the emergence and evolution of root crop viruses in West and Central Africa by using modern environmental and disease monitoring systems. This will help to reduce the impact of these viruses on smallholder farmers and improve food security across the continent.
The project is being implemented in ten (10) African countries with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United Kingdom through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the European Union (EU) through CORAF based in Dakar, Senegal.
In Ghana, the project is led by Dr. Allen Oppong, a senior research scientist of the CSIR-Crops Research Institute.
ASESEWA, UPPER MANYA KROBO DISTRICT
The sensitization programme started on the 5th of May, 2022 at Asesewa. In his welcome address, the Director of the Department of Agriculture in the Upper Manya Krobo District, Mr. Hilary Alagbo, commended the CSIR-Crops Research Institute for introducing cassava varieties such as “CRI-Bankyehema”, “CRI-Sikabankye”, and “CRI-Ampong” to the district. “I must say that, these varieties have been helpful to the serious farmers who have cultivated and adopted the good agronomic practices taught them by the Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs). It is therefore heart-warming that CSIR-CRI is again collaborating with the Department of Agriculture in the Upper Manya Krobo District to sensitize and create awareness on cassava viral diseases through the WAVE project”, he indicated. He further entreated farmers who were present to share any knowledge gained from the campaign with colleague farmers who could not be present.
A total of one hundred and twenty-six (126) participants, comprising 120 cassava farmers and 6 AEAs from communities such as Abetima, Bormase, Akrusi Yiti, Sekesua, and Akohia were taken through pre and post-sensitization surveys where farmers’ knowledge of various cassava diseases was tested. They were later educated on the symptoms of the various cassava viral diseases and those caused by other agents. They were also sensitized on the need to monitor their fields regularly, use disease-free planting materials of improved varieties for cultivation and adhere to good agronomic practices to improve their productivity. Participants were later taken to a WAVE demonstration cassava field where the knowledge acquired during the presentation was put inro practice for better understanding and appreciation.
Participants were grateful for the opportunity to learn and requested for more of such training programmes in the future.
WENCHI, WENCHI MUNICIPALITY
On Tuesday, 10th May, 2022, one hundred and twenty (120) cassava farmers and AEAs in the Wenchi municipality in the Bono region of Ghana, shared their various experiences on cassava diseases they had encountered on their farms during the sensitization workshop. They also informed the team about the measures they have adopted to combat the diseases which mostly affect the leaves, stems, roots of the crop.
Again, participants were educated on the various diseases of cassava particularly, those caused by viruses (Cassava mosaic disease and Cassava brown streak disease) with pictures of infected plants. Field monitoring and regular reporting of any strange and unfamiliar diseases to extension officers was stressed to help forestall any threats that could affect their productivity and food security in the country. They were also advised to use diease-free planting materials of improved varieties for planting to enhance their productivity.
A participant from Wurompo, one of the farming communities, Madam Kate Obuor Amankwaah, remarked after the programme, “I have learnt a lot, I now know how to deal with diseases affecting the yield of my cassava farm and I am ready to put in place measures to combat these diseases”.
ATEBUBU, ATEBUBU-AMANTIN MUNICIPAL
Over one hundred and forty (140) farmers, extension officers and the media were sensitized in the Atebubu-Amantin municipality in the Bono East region of Ghana on 12th of May 2022,
In a welcome address the Atebubu Municipal Director of Agriculture, Mr. Stephen Aidoo, promised his outfit’s readiness to assist farmers in the Atebubu area to deal with issues of cassava diseases within his operational areas. He was grateful to the WAVE project for bringing the sensitiation campaign to the area and appealed to the participants to share the knowledge acquired with other
farmers in order to raise their productivity and forestall any threats of new diseases that can destroy their fields. Again, the sensitization and awareness creation message was shared with the farmers , the AEAs as well as the media. They were educated on the various diseases of cassava particularly, those caused by viruses (Cassava mosaic disease and Cassava brown streak disese) with pictures of infected plants. Field monitoring and regular reporting of any strange and unfamiliar diseases to extension officers was stressed to help forestall any threats that can affect their productivity and food security in the country. They were also advised to use disease-free planting materials of improved varieties for cultivation to enhance their productivity. The farmers were taken to the field where the Plant Village Nuru App for cassava viral disease detection was demonstrated to them for use in their farming practices.
AKATSI, AKATSI MUNICIPAL
The campaign’s final stop was in Akatsi on the 18th of May, 2022. Cassava farmers from communities such as Lume Avete, Abusuakorfe, Xetorlogo, Avenorfeme and Avenorfedo were trained to identify cassava diseases and vectors such as CMD, CBSD, whiteflies, green mites and grasshoppers.
Mr. Charles Grunitzky, the Akatsi South Municipal Director of Agriculture indicated that the training will help increase cassava yields in the municipality. “This training will ultimately increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products in Akatsi South”, he said.
One again, the sensitization and awareness creation message was shared with the farmers and the AEAs as well as the media. They were educated on the various diseases of cassava particularly, those caused by viruses (Cassava mosaic disease and Cassava brown streak disease) with pictures of infected plants. Field monitoring and regular reporting of any strange and unfamilier diseases to extension officers was stressed to help forestall any threats that can affect their productivity and food security in the country. They were also advised to use disease-free planting materials of improved varieties for planting to enhance their productivity.
The farmers were taken to the field where the Plant Village Nuru App for cassava viral disease detection was demonstrated to them for use in their farming practices.
Madam Juliet Tali, a participant, stated that the pre and post sensitization surveys had been very revealing and would be very beneficial to the farmers.
Later in the day, the WAVE team had an interaction with the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Hon. Martin Kofitsey Nyahe, and a section of his staff. The MCE welcomed the WAVE team warmly and expressed his delight and appreciation and that of the coordinating council for the campaign in their municipality. He pledged their support and indicated that they would relay the message of the campaign to the appropriate quarters to help its spread. He underscored the importance of cassava in his municipality indicating that about 75% of the inhabitants in the municipality are farmers with the vast majority cultivating cassava for food and income.
IMPORTANCE OF CASSAVA
Cassava is a major staple root crop in Ghana, which serves as a food security and an income generating crop for farming families. In spite of its importance, the crop is plagued with biotic stresses such as pests and diseases attack, resulting in yield and income reductions. Some of the numerous diseases and pests are African cassava mosaic virus, cassava bacterial blight, anthracnose, root rot, green mite, mealybugs and whiteflies. The most devastating within the West African belt has been the Cassava mosaic virus. Cassava diseases are reported to cause losses of fresh roots as well as planting material.
Cassava is currently ranked as the number one root crop and the most widely cultivated crop in Ghana contributing to about 22% of Ghana’s Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP). It is cultivated on 917,000 ha and annual production is estimated at 22.45 million metric tonnes. Majority of Ghanaians consume cassava in various forms (fufu, ampesi, gari, agbelima and tuo zaafi) and its potential as raw material for industry is gaining prominence.
Currently, cassava is being processed into industrial starch, high quality cassava flour (HQCF), local foods, adhesives for wood industry, alcoholic beverages, feed for livestock and pharmaceuticals. Several improved varieties (26 varieties) have been developed, released and disseminated to farmers since 1993.
WAVE campaign Team
Dr. Allen Oppong, Senior Research Scientist, Project leader
Dr. Ruth Prempeh, Senior Research Scientist
Ms. Benedicta Nsiah Frimpong, Research Scientist
Ms. Esther Agyemang Marfo, Principal Technologist
Mr. Solomon Gyasi Boakye, Public Relations Officer, CSIR-CRI
Mr. Bernard Sakyiamah, Scientific Secretary CSIR-CRI
Mr. Peter Amoah, Project Accountant
Mrs. Rose Osei Kofi, Technician