Keen on tackling cassava viral diseases which have continued to ravage farmlands across Africa, agricultural stakeholders have harped on the need to undertake a participatory surveillance program to identify diseases and other damages in cassava fields.
This was disclosed at a workshop organized by the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) project, themed “Advocacy And Sensitization Meeting On Cassava Viral Disease Management Through Participatory Surveillance”, which was held in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
According to the stakeholders, there was need for real-time monitoring of cassava viral diseases as current surveillance approaches rely on irregular surveys that are only conducted once in two or three years.
Participatory surveillance involves the use of an intelligent android application “Nuru App” developed by Scientists at the Pennsylvania State University for easy detection of cassava viral diseases.
Two of these deadly diseases include Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) – the primary constraint to cassava cultivation in West Africa – and the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) which is not yet present in West Africa, but is said to be advancing.
In his welcome remarks, Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Prof Abiodun Adebayo, who was represented by Prof G. I Olasehinde, called on stakeholders to ensure the exclusion of CBSD in Nigeria, while lauding the efforts of WAVE in ensuring food security.
Prof Adebayo said that the University was proud to be the North Central and South West Hub for the WAVE project and restated the University’s commitment towards ensuring the success of the WAVE project.
Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, who was present at the workshop, said that 95 percent of cassava produced in Nigeria is still consumed as food despite the very high demand for cassava for industrial purposes.
The commissioner called for increased participation in the cassava value chain, adding that many processing factories currently lack raw materials and as such are redundant.
Ogun and Benue States have been selected as pilot locations for the participatory surveillance intervention for the South West and North Central zones of Nigeria respectively, being the largest producers of cassava in the two zones.
The workshop served as a forum for WAVE to share plans with the stakeholders, while also getting valuable feedback from stakeholders from each State.
In his presentation titled “Overview of the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) Project and status of cassava viral disease in Nigeria,” Country Director, WAVE Nigeria (North West and North East), Professor Mohammed Ibrahim said that one of the activities planned for the second phase of WAVE was the implementation of an effective disease monitoring system, hence the participatory surveillance programme.
He further gave a brief description of participatory surveillance, where farmers and other stakeholders were involved in keeping an eye on things in addition to routine surveys carried out by WAVE scientists every two to three years.
On her part, Country Director, WAVE Nigeria (South West and North Central), Dr Angela Eni, in her presentation titled “Participatory Surveillance for Sustainable Management of Cassava Viral Diseases” buttressed the need for extensive stakeholder participation in continual disease monitoring.
Dr Eni said that the concept of participatory surveillance was to ensure that farmers, extension officers and seed multipliers are well trained on viral disease symptom recognition/rapid reporting and equipped with everything required to enable them to actively participate in the monitoring process.
She further noted that the action was particularly important for the monitoring of the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) which is a devastating cassava viral disease that has been progressively spreading westward from East Africa.
Dr Eni also spoke on the issue of disenfranchising farmers, stating that the participatory surveillance app currently only communicates in English and French, but that lead farmers and extension officers who are literate will be charged with overseeing the initiative in various locations.
She added that the App does not require the internet for day-to-day use and can therefore be used in any location following the download.
Speaking also, the Country Manager of HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr Paul Ilona, informed stakeholders on current efforts towards the development of CBSD resistant varieties in Nigeria and encouraged the WAVE project to work closely with IITA towards the distribution of improved varieties across the country.
In his closing remarks, Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Timothy Ijir, lauded the participatory surveillance initiative, stating its importance to stakeholders such as members of the extension service.
He further called for intensified efforts towards boosting cassava productivity for industrial revolution as well as the exclusion of viral diseases of cassava.
Against this backdrop, WAVE will plan for participatory surveillance kick-off programs/farmers training for both States, in partnership with the various stakeholders’ groups represented.
Other stakeholders present at the meeting included; the Permanent Secretary, Ogun State Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Dotun Sorunke; Permanent Secretary, Benue State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Ikpe Margret, Chairmen of Cassava Associations; as well as directors and coordinators of relevant programs, secretaries of Associations and other stakeholders from both States.
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