AATF, CAMAP Be­gin Cas­sava Re­vamp

• Form 61 Youth Clus­ter Farm­ers In Six States • Ma­chine Plants Hectare Of Cas­sava In 45 Min­utes

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - BUSINESS AGRO - By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta

NIGERIAIS cur­rently the largest pro­ducer of cas­sava in the world with an an­nual out­put of over 34 mil­lion tonnes, but even with this, the coun­try is yet to meet its lo­cal de­mand. To ad­dress the short­fall in its pro­duc­tion, the African Agri­cul­tural Tech­nol­ogy Foun­da­tion (AATF), a Non­Govern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tion through the Cas­sava Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Agro­pro­cess­ing Pro­ject (CAMAP), with the sup­port of United King­dom Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (UKAID) is work­ing with both small­holder and com­mer­cial farm­ers from Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Kwara and Kogi States, to de­ploy ma­chines to as­sist them in im­prov­ing the cas­sava value chain.

Th­ese ma­chines are: cas­sava plant­ing ma­chine; boom sprayer; plough­ing and har­row­ing ma­chines; and cas­sava har­vest­ing ma­chine.

The ma­chines, ac­cord­ing to the coun­try co­or­di­na­tor of AATF-CAMAP pro­gramme, Mr. Ayodele Omowunmi, would as­sist farm­ers in har­row­ing, plough­ing, plant­ing, ap­pli­ca­tion of her­bi­cides and har­vest­ing of cas­sava with ease.

As at now, the pro­gramme has or­gan­ised farm­ers, mostly youths into clus­ters in six states: Osun-15 clus­ters and five com­mer­cial farms; Ogun-20 clus­ters and two com­mer­cial farms; Oyo­seven clus­ters and two com­mer­cial farms; Kwara-five and two com­mer­cial farms; Kogi-three clus­ters; and Delta-one com­mer­cial farm.

Leader of one of the clus­ters in Igun­rin vil­lage,

Iseyin, Oyo State, where 15 youths (nine of them grad­u­ates), Ab­dul­rasak Ab­dul­wa­heed Al­go­zali, told jour­nal­ists in com­pany of AATF mon­i­tor­ing team: "As in­di­vid­u­als, we have been farm­ing for 17 years and the high­est hectare of farm­land an in­di­vid­ual was able to cul­ti­vate was less than five hectares per farm­ing sea­son, but with the as­sis­tance of AATF we are cur­rently cul­ti­vat­ing 40 hectares of cas­sava farm­land."

The as­tro­nom­i­cal in­crease in the hectares they can cul­ti­vate now is as a re­sult of the cas­sava planter ma­chine in­tro­duced to them by AATF.

Omowunmi dis­closed that plant­ing one hectare of cas­sava through con­ven­tional method would take a farmer 22-days, while the two-roll cas­sava planter ma­chine would plant the same one­hectare for just 45 min­utes and at the same time ap­ply fer­til­izer.

He ex­plained that any farmer who prefers to be in a clus­ter would pay N47, 000 per hectare, which cov­ers plough­ing, har­row­ing, plant­ing, fer­til­izer ap­pli­ca­tion and spray­ing, in­stead of spend­ing N127, 000 or more. Shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore AATF-CAMAP in­ter­ven­tion, Al­go­zali said: "We have al­ways had the pas­sion to farm, but there was no­body to spon­sor us be­cause large scale farm­ing is a huge cap­i­tal in­ten­sive ven­ture. Be­fore we ap­proached AATF, we had ap­proached some­body and he told us that he could not sup­port us be­cause he could not in­vest in zero cap­i­tal. "One of our big­gest chal­lenges was funds and this de­layed our plans for a long time be­fore AATF came to our res­cue. They brought th­ese ma­chines for us (the cas­sava planter and boom sprayer) they also gave us 80 bags of fer­til­izer with her­bi­cides, not only th­ese, they are also giv­ing us tech­ni­cal train­ing on how to operate the ma­chines. This in­ter­ven­tion has re­ally helped us in achiev­ing our dreams."

Asked how they ac­quired the land, Al­go­zali said they leased the land for N167, 000 for a year, adding they are plan­ning to ex­tend the 40 ha to 150 by the next plant­ing sea­son.

He urged gov­ern­ment at all lev­els to adopt AATF'S model in boost­ing agri­cul­ture through mech­a­ni­sa­tion, say­ing: "Gov­ern­ments al­way come out with dif­fer­ent agri­cul­tural poli­cies, but they lack the will to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment them, but there is noth­ing wrong in part­ner­ing AATF and other or­gan­i­sa­tions, to en­sure that agri­cul­ture gets the de­sired at­ten­tion."

Also shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences, an­other clus­ter of 25 farm­ers in Ayetoro, Yewa North lo­cal coun­cil area of Ogun State, said they were able to cul­ti­vate 65 ha of cas­sava farm­land with the cas­sava-plant­ing ma­chine, as against the small ha of land they cul­ti­vated in pre­vi­ous years.

Speak­ing on be­half of the group, Mr. Idowu Fri­day, said: "The dif­fer­ence be­tween mech­a­ni­sa­tion and man­ual farm­ing is that with mech­a­ni­sa­tion we were able to cul­ti­vate large ha of land com­pared with man­ual. With the use of labour in plant­ing, no amount of labour you em­ploy can fin­ish one ha in two weeks, but with mech­a­ni­sa­tion you can fin­ish one ha in just 45 min­utes. "Through AATF CAMAP pro­ject, we have been able to know how to plant cas­sava us­ing mod­ern method. We have also been taught how to ap­ply in­sec­ti­cide in large quan­ti­ties. We have re­ceived se­ries of train­ing from them. We have also en­joyed full as­sis­tance of mech­a­ni­sa­tion from AATF," Fri­day con­cluded.

Omowunmi, the co­or­di­na­tor of AATF-CAMAP pro­gramme later told jour­nal­ists that the CAMAP pro­gramme is pri­mar­ily tar­geted at youths and women, re­veal­ing the foun­da­tion trav­eled across the world to look for ma­chines that would ease the stress of cul­ti­vat­ing cas­sava in Nige­ria. He ex­plained: "Be­fore a farmer could be part of this pro­gramme, he must have a min­i­mum of one hectare, and the farm should not be about five km away from where there is good net­work of roads be­cause we are think­ing of the har­vest sea­son where trucks will be com­ing in.”

Ac­cord­ing to Omowunmi , with man­ual method of cas­sava farm­ing, the high­est yield a farmer could get as har­vest is be­tween 10 to 15 tons per ha, but with mech­a­ni­sa­tion, a farmer is as­sured of get­ting up to 35 tons per hectare, "this is far prof­itable for farm­ers.

"What we are preach­ing is the use of mech­a­nised cas­sava farm­ing and the use of the right agro­nomics prac­tices that will re­duce the drudgeries, in­crease farm­ers' yields and in­come and to make food avail­able in the con­ti­nent."

Omowunmi said: "Our CAMAP pro­gramme has re­ally changed the at­ti­tudes of farm­ers to­wards plant­ing cas­sava. We are chang­ing their ori­en­ta­tion on cas­sava; be­fore they per­ceived cas­sava as a poor man's crop, but now we are telling them that cas­sava is an in­dus­trial crop and they can make huge amount of money in it. As we go along, we are mak­ing some progress; some of the farm­ers now see cas­sava as a mon­ey­mak­ing busi­ness.

Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Part­ner­ships Unit, Mr. Umaru Abu, said: "Since in­cep­tion, the pro­ject has rev­o­lu­tion­alised cas­sava pro­duc­tion through in­creased adop­tion of mech­a­ni­sa­tion and as­so­ci­ated prac­tices that have guar­an­teed higher yield and link­age to mar­kets for our farm­ers. This pro­ject is de­signed to gal­vanise the pri­vate sec­tor to take the lead in ser­vice pro­vi­sion of cas­sava mech­a­ni­sa­tion equip­ment to farm­ers in Nige­ria and Africa at large. "Over the years, AATF has worked with var­i­ous part­ners and stake­hold­ers across the cas­sava value chain, which has led to the suc­cesses achieved so far. We went out to iden­tify new de­vel­op­ing and agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies adopt­able and use­ful for cas­sava farm­ers to ad­dress all the con­straints in cas­sava value chain. We have also iden­ti­fied tech­nolo­gies to solve the con­straints with a view to im­prov­ing the value chain.

Gbadamosi Ibrahim, a trac­tor op­er­a­tor is one of the 30 ser­vice providers trained by the AATF on the op­er­a­tion of the cas­sava­plant­ing ma­chine. "I am one of the 30 ser­vice providers trained by AATF, after the train­ing they brought the ma­chines and since then I have been pro­vid­ing ser­vices to farm­ers through AATF in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions," he said.

Cas­sava

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