NIGERIA – The African Development Bank Group has revealed plans to invest US$120 million over the next two to three years in the production and transformation of cassava among other important commodities.

As part of a strategy to achieve agricultural diversity, the funding will also boost production of maize, sorghum/millet, wheat, livestock, aquaculture, high iron beans and orange fleshed sweet potatoes.

The announcement was made by the Director for agriculture at AfDB, Dr Martin Fregene at the fourth international conference on cassava organised by the Global Cassava Partnerships for the 21st Century, GCP21.

The conference brought together local and international partners in the cassava sector, coming from research and development organisations, government, farming community, and the private sector.

Fregene said cassava was a strategic crop for Africa’s food security and wealth creation for youth, and women, adding that another dimension to the importance of cassava was in nutrition where cassava can enhance the nutrition of children directly or as feed for poultry and other livestock.

“Transforming cassava on the African continent would help African nations to cut imports and redirect about $1.2bn into African domestic economies,” Fregene added.

The bank’s investment in cassava comes at a time when African governments are scaling up efforts to end food imports and create wealth.

Commenting on the matter, Minister of agriculture for the Republic of Benin, Dr Gaston Dossouhoui said cassava remained the cheapest staple consumed by Africans, adding that addressing the constraints of cassava production in Africa will have a positive impact on African farmers.

He added that the fourth international conference on cassava would contribute to knowledge sharing that would help in removing the bottlenecks in the cassava sector.

According to Dr Kenton Dashiell, deputy director-general for partnerships for delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), unlocking the potential of cassava required partnerships and close collaboration of partners to address the constraints facing cassava.