FARMERS OVERCOME CASSAVA MOSAIC DISEASE

Eradication of diseased plants is helping cassava farmers belonging to the Apex Farmers Association of Ghana (APFOG) to increase their productivity and income.  

The farmers who now cultivate disease resistant varieties testified that the introduction of the new varieties by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has enabled them to increase production.

A member of the Association, Mr. Samuel Annang disclosed that his output per acre has increased significantly due to the cultivation of disease resistant varieties. 

“Prior to our advocacy action, the African Cassava Mosaic disease  (ACMD) disease was severely affecting the output of my cultivation business. I could only harvest about three (3) tons of cassava per an acre of cassava plantation. However, with the introduction of the disease resistant cassava varieties made possible by our advocacy action, I am now harvesting between nine and twelve tons of cassava per acre, and my income has also increased significantly,” Mr. Annang stated in an interview.  

 The farmers at APFOG are also delighted that technical support from the IITA and CSIR has enlightened them on how to identify and control the spread of the ACMD in their farms..

The President of APFOG,  Alhaji Nashiru Kadri stated: “Before our encounter with IITA and CSIR officials, many of our farmers could not easily identify ACMD infected cassava plants on their farms. They laboured in vain only to find out during harvests that their matured cassava plants had no tubers to harvest as a result of the devastating effects of the ACM disease. But with the technical guidance received from CSIR and IITA officials, farmers are now able to identify diseased cassava plants and eradicate them from their fields to prevent the spread of the disease to other plants.” 

The leadership of APFOG also revealed that their members’ access to market has improved tremendously as their high quality cassava varieties are now attracting interest from corporate buyers.  

The Secretary of APFOG, Mr. Kwaku Boateng, stated: “Because farmers within our association are now able to produce high quality cassava, quite a number of them are currently on contract to produce specified quantities of certain cassava varieties for a beer producing company in Ghana.”  

Members of APFOG also testified that one other notable benefit of their dialogue with CSIR and IITA officials is that their ability to add value to their raw cassava produce has improved tremendously, thus minimizing the perennial problem of post harvest losses and low prices for cassava. 

Mr. Samuel Annan pointed out that as a result of the increased cassava yield, many farmers were struggling to get market for all their raw cassava crops at a good price. He further explained that the situation compelled them to approach officials of CSIR, who eventually gave them technical advice on how to surmount that challenge.

“Those of us in cassava farming have always thought that the best way to sell cassava produce was to market them in their raw state. But we soon realized that whenever we had bumper harvests, we were often compelled to sell them off to buyers at very low prices because we could not preserve them for long. Fortunately, through our advocacy action, we got into contact with CSIR officials who taught us how to attract better prices for our cassava by processing them into dried chips and flour.”, Mr. Annan remarked.

Cassava is cultivated in almost all the districts of Ghana and it is the number one staple food crop for majority of Ghanaians and a major source of livelihood for APFOG members. It is also fast becoming an important crop for industries because of its high starch content. Sadly, ACMD, a major bane of cassava growers in Ghana, has for many years caused severe yield and income losses in all production districts where susceptible cultivars are grown. 

In order to curtail the spread of this disease and protect the cassava cultivation business of farmers, the leadership of APFOG sought the assistance of the BUSAC Fund to enable them advocate the use of IITA and CSIR’s resources to address the African Cassava Mosaic Disease problem. With the support of its development partners, DANIDA, USAID and the EU, the BUSAC Fund provided APFOG with an advocacy grant that enabled the association to effectively dialogue with relevant duty bearers on the need to develop ACMD-resistant varieties of cassava to minimize the perennial losses incurred by cassava farmers. 

Story: Ebenezer Kpentey, the BUSAC Fund.