Cassava is a crucial crop to the food security of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, being a major source of income for farmers and a raw material for local industries. The crop is now being given the same level of attention and research that maize, rice and wheat have.
Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa(SARD-SC), is a multi- national CGIAR –led project, which has the overall objective of enhancing food and nutrition security and contributing to poverty reduction in selected Regional Membership Countries(RMC) inn Africa. The target RMCs are: Benin Republic, Cote-d’Ivoire, DR Congo,Eritrea,Ethiopia,Ghana,Kenya,Lesotho,Madagascar,Mali,Mauritania,Niger,Nigeria,Senagal,Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project is being funded by the African Development Bank and its focus is on raising the productivity and profitability of four commodities; Cassava, Maize, Rice and wheat. These are four of the six commodities that African Heads of States have defined as strategic crops for Africa, through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme(CAADP).
The overall objective of the project is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to poverty reduction in the Bank’s RMCs. The specific objective is to enhance the productivity of and income from the four CAADP priority value chains on a sustainable basis. In real terms, the plan is to reduce food importation rom other continents and offer farmers better assess to markets, improve livelihoods and tackle poverty through enhanced capacities of beneficiaries in order to achieve sustainable development of the region.
Consequently, SARD-SC Project Scientists and implementation partners are working on five main intervention areas: Breeding, Agronomy, Agribusiness, Gender and Post-Harvest. Policy and Gender issues will be considered through all these target areas.
The generation and dissemination of technological packages have proven successful in the cassava transformation agenda of past projects. Previously, farmers experienced a decline in cassava yield due to the cassava mosaic pandemic. Farmers learned about the disease and how to control it, and were given clean planting material-high yielding and disease –tolerant varieties- to start afresh. In 2012, IITA and its partners met about 15% of the national needs for improved planting materials in DR. Congo, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Tanzania through UPoCA, a USAID-funded project. SARD-SC is continuing where the project stopped, by upscaling the promotion of the varieties chosen by the farmers and disseminating them to other farmers.