Harvestplus introduces vitamin A cassava planting machine

THE Country Manager of Harvestplus Nigeria, an international agriculture organization, Dr Paul Ilona, has disclosed recently that it had trained students of Federal College of Agriculture (FECA), Akure, on vitamin A (Yellow) cassava production, using Brazilian cassava planting machine.

Cassava is vital to the economy of Nigeria as the country is world’s largest producer of the commodity. Recently, research by some agricultural bodies led to the introduction of three newly-improved Vitamin A cassava varieties with yellow roots, was released by the Nigerian Government in 2014.This was in a bid to step up efforts to tackle the problem of vitamin A deficiency, especially among women and children in Nigeria, instead of adding red oil to the white cassava

Ilona said the Planter was introduced to increase production, reduce production cost and make production of cassava less stressful, stressing that it was also introduced to reduce the drudgery associated with cassava production and mechanize agriculture with technologies to attract youths.

The Country Manager of Harvestplus which has lead a global effort to improve nutrition by developing and disseminating staple food crops rich in vitamins and minerals, narrated further that cassava planting is traditionally managed in a rudimentary way, adding that the country want youths to come into agriculture, key drudgeries that make agriclabour intensive must be removed.

Ilona stressed further that if there are no alternative to manual labour, agriculture will be so terribly affected that in the next 10 to 15 years Nigerians will be suffering, noting that for Nigeria to meet its food requirement, there is a strong need to commercialise and introduce technologies that will reduce drudgery in production.

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He emphasized that the only way the country can stem food importation is to truly promote agriculture to a large extent and make it easier, adding that depending on the efficiency of use, a planter can plant 10 hectares in a day.

Ilona explain further that to plant one hectare comfortably in a day, it will take 10 people planting at the same time. So, if it gives 10 a day, it means saving 100 persons planting on the farm; noting that the Planter will save labour.

However, the Country Manager noted that the planter is more beneficiary to farmers who have large farm of between 10 and 20 hectares, adding that to make it easy, farmers can come together to plant in a large land so that the planter can function within the same environment.

Ilona who said the planter can be made available to farmers on request, as they are discussing with fabricators on how to produce them locally, stressed the need for the government to add value to the curriculum of agriculture institutions, adding that there is need to shift from theory to practical studies.

Yellow cassava which is fortified with Vitamin A is becoming a more needed farm commodity amongst cassava farmers due to the nutritionally benefits to both children and pregnant women. Mrs Chineye Okorie, a Cassava Farmer has urged more farmers to embrace yellow cassava production because this health benefits.

Okorie said that farmers needed to be aware of the full benefits of the vitamin A cassava varieties for children, adding that Vitamin A deficiency results in stunting growth in children, predisposes them to illnesses such as diarrhoea and measles, and even premature death.

She encourages more farmers to grow more nutritious cassava and contribute to tackling of prevalent diseases.

The Ibadan-based cassava farmer and owner of Abundance Farms said that yellow cassava was good for the pregnant women noting that when farmers indulge in yellow cassava farming, this contributes to providing nutritional alternative to fighting against diseases.

Okorie narrated further that in pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency results in night blindness and increases the risk of mortality and that yellow cassava root was fortified with Vitamin A and reduces cost of production, as there would be no need for the use of palm oil to make the garri yellow, which is more economical to produce.