World Food Day: IITA Project steps up engagement with extension partners in weed control research


As the world marks another World Food Day on 16 October, the Cassava Weed Management Project which is being managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partners has organized a series of field demonstration visits targeting extension staff, researchers and farmers across the cassava growing zones of Nigeria.

The aim of the field visits, which was conducted in Benue, Abia, Oyo and Ogun states, was to demonstrate early but yet promising results being recorded in weed management in cassava farming systems, and to put key partners on the same page.

More than 150 persons comprising mostly staff of Agricultural Development Programs in the four states (Benue, Abia, Oyo and Ogun states), and farmers participated in the well-planned exercise.

In Benue, the Program Manager, Benue Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA), Mr James Ker commended the project team for taking steps to address the problem of weed infestation in cassava farms.

“I am impressed by what I have seen. I am hopeful that soon the problem of weeds in cassava farms will be a thing of the past,” he said on Thursday (15 October) as he visited the on-station trials at the University of Agriculture Makurdi.

Earlier in IITA campus, the Project Leader, IITA Cassava Weed Management Project, Dr Alfred Dixon while taking visitors on a field tour stated that “cassava is no longer considered as a poor man’s crop as everyone is now eating it in one way or the other.” He however noted that the challenge to increase productivity of cassava was weed management. “Farmers cannot grow more than they can weed, and this is responsible for the small farm size which affects the total yield,” he said on 20 August.

Dr Dixon called on global leaders and policy makers to invest in research and development for the generation and delivery of innovations that would solve the problems that are militating against increased agricultural productivity in Africa. “For instance, we cannot fully achieve the benefit of crop improvement if we fail to address the problem of weeds in cassava,” he added.

Tagged “Social Protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty”, the theme of this year’s World Food Day seeks to highlight the importance of reducing rural poverty and granting access to food or means to buy food.

Dr Dixon said addressing the weed menace was key to women and youth empowerment, stressing that women contribute more than 90 percent of hand weeding labor, and that any effort to address this constraint would have a positive multiplier effect on women’s health and the larger society.

At the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Abia, farmers and ADP staff visited the trial sites. Fields visited on 22 September 2015 included: agronomic trial, mechanical weed control trial, and weed frequency trial. Dr Moses Okwusi, NRCRI Communication Focal Person for the project, and Davison Korieocha (Research Associate) took the team round the trials.

Meanwhile in Ogun State, the field visit, which was facilitated by Prof Grace Sokoya, was held yesterday (16 October 2015) on the campus of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta had in attendance farmers, top officials of the university and extension partners.

The Vice Chancellor, FUNAAB, Prof Olusola Oyewole commended the IITA Cassava Weed Management team for hosting the event, and showcasing the activities of the project to the larger community.

Giving insights into the project, Prof Friday Ekeleme, IITA Cassava Weed Management Project’s Principal Investigator, explained that the project’s trials were basically set up to identify measures to control weeds in cassava production. He emphasized that in any weed management control scheme, land preparation is a vital component as it helps reduce weed pressure.

The Communication and Knowledge Exchange Expert of the Project, Godwin Atser noted that plans were in top gear for disseminating results to farmers.  He said that by addressing the weeds constraint, the project would reduce the drudgery faced by women farmers and attract youths to cassava farming. “We aim to bring back youth into agriculture by addressing the problem of weeds. Weeds are major disincentives for young people’s interest in the field,” he said.

The IITA Cassava Weed Management Project is a five-year project that is seeking sustainable weed management technologies to address the problem of weed infestation in cassava farming systems. These technologies include the use of best-bet agronomic practices, mechanical weeding, and safe and environmentally friendly chemistries. The project is led by IITA and implemented by the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; University of Agriculture Makurdi, and the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta. The ADPs in the states of Benue, Abia, Ogun and Oyo are also partners.

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