Institute canvasses intervention fund for improved operation
The calls were made at the opening ceremony of the NRCRI 2010 annual research review and planning workshop that had participants from the universities, Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs), Farmers and groups, international, organizations etc. The theme was “refocusing research and extension in root and tuber crops for private sector participation, food security and export”
Nwosu who posited that time has also come when the level of fund appropriation should reflect performance and output of institutions to the national economy described the year under review as a rewarding one in which” a lot of achievements have been made but we are not going to rest on our oars until root and tuber crops become major export earners of this country”. He listed some ofthese achievements as NRCRI substantial contribution to national food security and sufficiency through agricultural research and extension activities on root and tuber crops that sustains the country’s position as world’s largest producer of Cassava, Yam, and Cocoyam which are respectively 45, 32 and five million metric tons.
According to him, recently between 2005 and 2009, NRCRI developed and released twelve new Cassava varieties bringing the total so far to 29 saying “Cassava is a major food crop for over 100 million Nigerians while 98 % of the output in Nigeria are consumed locally leaving an insignificant portion for export”. Adding that cassava production in the country will double when the traditional varieties in the farming systems are replaced by these improved varieties that are capable of yielding over 60% more than the local varieties in addition to being pests and diseases resistant, Nwosu said that NRCRI joined a research consortium called Bio-Cassava-Plus involving advanced Laboratories in Africa, USA and Europe.
He further explained that the Biocassava Plus being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has in a space of three years been able to achieve and even surpass set goals and that the Biocassava Plus also developed 20-30x pro-vitamin A enriched cassava variety as against the lOx projected, even as cassava varieties with high iron and high protein contents were also developed which were all being fieldtested in NRCRJ.
Another achievement he listed, was introduction of orange-flashed sweet potato containing Vitamin A to farmers which he said are currently being grown by farmers in Agip Oil Company producing host commun.ities under a N20 million contract project sponsored by the company .
The NRCRI Chief Executive Officer further stated that the crops have the potential and that with the support of government and the collective will of the revered farmers, their expectations will be met announcing that NRCRI was already collaborating with the Nassarawa state government and a UK-Based company to commence the export of Yam Tubers from Nigeria to the European Union. According to Nwosu, “this programme may turn out to be the saving grace in insulating Nigeria from the global economic melt down as close to $200m trade could be created” and cited inadequate/unstable power and Water supply including. inadequate funding due to budgeting cuts as some of its constraints.
Supporting the call for intervention fund to NRCRI, the Chairman of he House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture Chief Gbenga Makanjuola who was present, said that having seen and felt the positive impact of the funds allocated to it in the past, more funds appropriation will follow progressively.
He said that what Nigeria achieved in Root and Tuber crops were due to researches made by NRCRI insisting that no nation can develop if its citizenry cannot be fed adding that agriculture is the only sector that can provide the nation with food, employment and others. END