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February 02, 2009

Cassava: Gabon seeks Nigeria’s help

by Siaka Momoh

Gabon, a West Central African country which has a rich agro ecological zone, plans to develop its cassava industry by tapping planting materials, skills and information from Nigeria, a Gabonese top official has said. The country intends to improve cassava production, making it a source of income for farmers and a major tool in poverty eradication.

“The Nigerian government has agreed to offer assistance to Gabon by providing planting materials among others. We also see the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as an important partner in assisting Gabon in this regard,” Francois Banga Eboumi, Gabonese Ambassador to Morocco who is also the Special Adviser to the President of that country said during a courtesy visit to IITA in Ibadan.

In the last 42 years, the IITA in collaboration with national and international partners has developed and released several cassava varieties in Nigeria and beyond, making Nigeria the world’s largest producer of cassava with 45.7million tonnes per annum.

Despite the offer of planting materials to Gabon, Eboumi said his country would want to acquire the skills and capacity to develop the cassava industry on its own. Said he, “We are not only asking for fish, we also want you to teach us how to fish.” According to him, Gabon would want IITA to build the capacity of Gabonese scientists and also help the country with improved planting materials and information that would increase the yield of cassava and other crops in that country.

Cassava plays a significant role as a source of dietary intake for the people of Gabon.
Eboumi said there was need to boost production in order to keep pace with the ever increasing demand for the crop.

Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava with a current statistic of 49 million metric tonnes a year (FM AR 2007) which is grown by over 40 million farmers in the country.

Cassava is fast becoming a potential engine of growth in many developing countries and exerting a powerful influence on world trade, courtesy of efforts of governments and the private sector in developing unique, value-added, cassava-based products for human consumption and industrial purposes.

The federal government of Nigeria and other agencies have established various programmes for the development of the cassava agribusinesses, all working in tandem to increase production and processing, and to promote willful consumption of cassava products through increased marketing opportunities’. Policy focus such as increasing duty tariff or total ban on the importation of corn starch and wheat flour plus the 10-20 percent ethanol blenching policy will further create enough stimulation and motivation for farmers to increase cassava production.

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