In Cotonou, Benin, last week, more than 300 cassava scientists, farmers, government representatives and private-sector stakeholders met to attend the fourth International Cassava Conference, an event convened triennially by the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21). Among the topics covered were biological, molecular and genomic advances including DNA fingerprinting of cassava varieties; technological advances in value-chain innovations like cassava processing, including energy-efficient cassava flash-dryers; and improvements in environmentally friendly production practices as well as speeding up the cultivation – and therefore distribution – of improved cassava varieties.
During the five-day conference, executive director of GCP21 Dr Claude Fauquet was presented with a surprise award honouring his dedication to cassava research and development and facilitating a global community dedicated to the crop. “Through his role at GCP21, Claude is an effective convener and a driving force behind united efforts to further cassava research and transform the crop into a future-proof staple food and income source for millions of smallholder farmers worldwide,” says a report by CGIAR on the award. A 2018 Golden Cassava Prize was also presented to Dr Alfred Dixon, a principal scientist and cassava breeder with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Dr Hernan Ceballos of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The award recognizes excellent contributions to cassava transformation.
Coverage on the conference included a Guardian, UK, story on the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) investment of $120 million to help bolster Africa’s cassava sector to reduce reliance on food imports and improve livelihoods and food security. The investment will also help improve rice, maize, sorghum/millet, wheat, livestock, aquaculture, high iron beans and orange fleshed sweet potatoes.
The FAO and the Global Soil Partnership this week launched a programme to reduce soil degradation by 25 percent in the next ten years in 47 African countries. “Only with sustainable soil management can we achieve agricultural growth, ensure food security and adapt to a changing climate,” said Rene Castro, FAO’s Assistant Director-General, Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department. “Healthy soil is the foundation of our food system – supporting healthy crops that nourish people.” Proposed methods for soil-quality improvement include: implementing soil conservation and erosion control measures such as hedgerows, contour lines and terracing; rehabilitating degraded soils (including remediation of polluted soils); curbing deforestation; establishing and/or equipping soil-testing laboratories; building farmers’ capacity to use and adopt sustainable soil management practices; and supporting the creation of legislation and policy guidelines for sustainable soil management.
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