By Justin Kayiranga
New disease resistant-cassava variety introduced to farmers in Ruhango district has shown to be productive compared with the previous varieties.
Rwanda faced low cassava production due to the fact that the seeds which were being used by farmers were so old that they were susceptible to diseases like Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), locally known as Kabore and Ububembe.
Apart from diseases and pests, farmers also add that getting fresh cassava seeds to replace old ones was another challenge which also resulted in poor productivity.
“The cassava seeds we had been very susceptible to diseases, and it would take a long time to find a replacement. In addition to this, whenever we got new seeds, we often found them to be flawed due to the way they were transported in, which in turn led to the problem of low productivity” says Nyandwi Jean Baptiste, member of Mbakungahaze cooperative in Ruhango District.
To address this issue, The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) initiated a CASSAVA AGRIBUSINESS SEED SYSTEM (CASS), a three years project which was aiming at enabling agribusiness development for scaling quality cassava seed systems for control of major viral diseases.
Since April 2019, the project has been implemented in Rwanda by IITA, in collaboration with Rwanda Agriculture and Animal resources Board (RAB) and other partners, and it was expected to run till March 2022.
Among the outcomes of the project implementation, include the fact that it leaves some farmers with basic knowledge and skills to process seeds multiplication/breeding from pre-basic level up to the level of being planted on the ground, something which was not familiar to farmers as formerly the process was only done by RAB.
Samuel Mugambi, a researcher at IITA, asserts that the fact that farmers are now allowed to make seeds multiplication/breeding, will help solve the problem of seeds shortage among farmers.
He said “We cannot say that they have the same capacity as RAB does, but we trained them, and they even went to visit the place where RAB normally does seeds multiplication. So now we see that they have the ability to do it well and efficiently and they would process more seeds than the time when RAB did it alone.”
Tubakungahaze cooperative, currently operating in Kinazi sector, is among the cooperatives that started cassava seeds processing where they were given 509 seeds and they were able to multiply them to more than 40,000 seeds processed from their screen house in one season something that raised confidence of getting increased productivity.
“There is a noticeable difference. All of the seeds we were using showed signs of diseases, but with how we see this NAMU130 (scientific name), we are expecting a doubled yield. Nyandwi affirmed.
Expectations are not only on the increase of productivity but also Eusipa Nyirakazubwenge, the cooperative accountant confirms that they also expect to generate money from seeds multiplication.
She said “In collaboration with the Kinazi Cassava Plant and Syndicat Ingabo, we have already prepared a 9.5-hectare farm to process cassava seeds, we as a cooperative expect to earn about Rwf30 million that we will get from seeds multiplication”
Although the farmers are optimistic about the increase in cassava production, they also point out the problem of insufficient cassava market.
However, Ntivuguruzwa Severin from RAB says that “the very first step is to help farmers get good varieties and whenever they get enough produce, we connect them with the ministry of trade and other institutions so that they may assist farmers to get access to markets.”
So far six cassava varieties have been distributed to farmers across the country while other four varieties are currently being multiplied by farmers in the screen houses.349