Propose Establishment of Emergency Operational Centres
Agricultural stakeholders have harped on the need for proactive actions toward preventing the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) amid concerns that the virus may hit Nigeria and the entire West African region sooner than expected.
According to the stakeholders, the Federal Government must prioritise the prevention of the disease’s outbreak and set up a technical committee to fast-track the country’s preparedness to respond to the scourge.
The stakeholders made this disclosure at the National Stakeholders Workshop on the Operational Modalities of the National Response Plan for the prevention of the disease in Nigeria, which held recently in Abuja.
The workshop was convened by the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) Project to operationalize the well-documented country response action plan for pre-emptive management of cassava virus diseases, especially CBSD.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the project tagged “Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for Food Security” is aimed at mitigating the constraints imposed by viruses on root and tuber crops production in 10 Central and West African countries.
Although, currently not in Nigeria or any other West African country, the virus is devastating cassava farms in many Eastern, Southern and Central African countries.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that the cassava disease is gradually moving closer to West Africa and thus a potential danger to cassava production in countries in the region, particularly Nigeria.
WAVE, however, is charging the government to initiate plans that would forestall the entrance of the disease and imminent danger to cassava production in Nigeria, a crop regarded as a major staple food in the country.
Fast-track Operational Centres, Fund NAQS, Research Institutions – WAVE
At the stakeholders’ engagement this week, WAVE proposed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) sets up Emergency Operational Centres (EOC) across the federation to tackle the advancing peril.
The EOCs, it proffered, would provide diagnostic capacities for institutions such as the National Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) to fast-track its ongoing efforts in tackling agric-related diseases.
According to the Team Leader for the Covenant University Hub of WAVE, Dr Angela Eni, this would also strengthen already-existing structures to support the effort of NAQS and other agencies to function effectively.
The Project further urged the government to facilitate the sensitisation of farmers across the country on the dangers of the virus and encourage local communities to disseminate information.
This, it said, would give farmers leverage on the modalities of handling the disease and also encourage them to report outbreaks to the right authorities in charge or strategic ADPs.
WAVE also called on the government to properly fund NAQS and various research institutions to significantly address concerns regarding an imminent outbreak of the disease.
It added that well-funded research institutions will be capacitated enough to develop bespoke seed tracking systems and handle any form of an outbreak that may threaten production.
Against this backdrop, stakeholders in the agricultural space have been urged to facilitate coordinated and collaborative efforts in order to shield Nigeria from the virus.
Participants at the workshop included the representative of the FMARD, Director General of the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Directors from the National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and WAVE, State Commissioners of Agriculture, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of WAVE host institutions, representative of IITA, Professors from Universities of Agriculture, Chairmen of the Nigerian State Cassava Association and several other stakeholders of the cassava value chain.
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