THISDAY - Apapa,Lagos,Nigeria
From Chinwe Ochu in Abuja, November 30, 2008
International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has revealed plans to invest $50 million to improve the processing of cassava in the country and increase market accessibility of the product.
Furthermore, plans are underway to diversify the huge focus on cassava and spotlight other crops that would better the lives and livelihood of small scale rural farmers.
The body is a specialized financial agency of the United Nation (UN) focusing exclusively on poor farmers and rural communities with the aim of reducing poverty in the rural areas.
Perin Saint Ange, Regional Portfolio Adviser for IFAD in Nigeria, who made the disclosure at an interactive session in Abuja, was responding to criticisms directed at the agency for over emphasizing on cassava production to the neglect of market accessibility and other crops.
The IFAD official said that after a lot of propaganda to increase the cultivation of cassava in the country last year, farmers were left with enormous harvests of the produce with no market to dispose them, off adding that this led to the farmers incurring huge losses of which many are yet to recover from.
Ange acknowledged that the group had indeed focused all of its energy in improving the production capacity and quality of the cassava crop to the neglect of the processing system and marketing of the crop, noting that the huge emphasis being laid on cassava is because it is the bread basket of a large part of the country with about 26 states of the nation cultivating the product.
He however explained that so far a little over $200 million had been devoted to complete the yet-to-be implemented programmes in Nigeria of which $100million is still left, adding, "About $50 million is still in the envelope to address as a priority the processing and marketing of cassava in particular and others which could be yams that would add value."
IFAD is hailed for its role in the 70's when the nation's cassava production sector was challenged by cassava mosaic and is also credited for revolutionalising the cassava production industry.
The agency would today begin a national roundtable workshop of Nigeria's Country Programme Evaluation (CPE) in Abuja. The workshop is geared towards discussing the key issues and conclusions emerging from the CPE, one of which is for IFAD and Nigeria to intensify efforts in the agriculture sector, aiding small farmers to access markets for their produce.