The Vegetative Seed Specialist of IITA, Dr. Diebiru-Ojo, inspecting cassava plantlets in a GoSeed facility.
The IITA GoSeed, a private seed company of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), says it has made significant progress in 2021 with the sales of improved cassava planting materials averaged $267,277 despite COVID-19 restrictions.
The company, which made the disclosure during the annual meeting of the Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II), said sales were driven primarily by orders from farmers and processors who aimed to get higher yields to meet consumers’ demand.
The Vegetative Seed Specialist of IITA GoSeed, Dr. Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, said the sales were achieved despite COVID-19 restrictions that hurt seed supply chains.
The company was established as part of the BASICS project to help meet the demand for early generation planting materials with cassava as the first target crop.
Dr. Diebiru-Ojo sees a positive outlook in 2022 as she remarked: “We are optimistic that sales and expansion will get better in coming years.”
Through its business model, the company established 142 hectares (ha) of early generation seeds, comprising 122ha of breeder seeds and 20ha of foundation seeds across eight states.
“We worked with outgrowers to achieve this target while ensuring that women were active participants,” she explained.
Although Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, yield per ha of cassava is low (less than eight tons per ha) compared to other countries like Thailand, with yield per ha of more than 20 tons. Researchers blame the yield gap partly on the use of local varieties that occupy 40 per cent of the cassava growing areas in Nigeria.
The BASICS-II project was established to address the bottlenecks in the cassava seed system with a view to granting farmers easy access to affordable planting materials in an economically sustainable approach. This led to the creation of GoSeed in IITA, Ibadan, Oyo State and Umudike Seed, at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Abia State.
IITA GoSeed is closely linked with breeding programmes in IITA. In collaboration with the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), the company ensures that materials going to Cassava Seed Entrepreneurs (CSEs) are disease-free and of high genetic potential.
Some of the improved varieties that GoSeed is pushing include TME419, Dixon, Ayaya, Farmers Pride, Fine Face, Game changer, Poundable, and Obasanjo-2.
The success of IITA GoSeed attracted other related projects such as the GIZ-GIAE/IITA Cassava & Maize Value Chain Project (funded by GIZ) and other interventions to the cassava seed system.
The projects have formed partnerships with the company and have adopted the BASICS model—a seed system approach developed by BASICS-II that connects seeds system actors and ensures that farmers’ access improved varieties in an economically sustainable manner.
Speaking at the meeting, the Project Manager of BASICS-II, Prof Lateef Sanni, commended the progress made by IITA GoSeed, noting that the company is a vital node in the cassava seed value chain. “The progress you have made is impressive, and we are proud of you.”
For the Technical Advisor to BASICS-II, Dr. Alfred Dixon, and IITA Deputy Director General (Partnership for Delivery), Dr. Kenton Dashiell, the progress made by GoSeed was a demonstration of farmers’ desire to rapidly transform the cassava ecosystem.