By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta
September 17, 2017
Nigeria is 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 Non-Governmental Organisation through the Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing 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; Oyo-seven 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 one-hectare 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 cassava-planting 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.