Chinese agronomists said they plan to boost the cultivation of better-quality cassava varieties in Africa, which relies on the starchy tubers as a major source of food.
The Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) said in an action plan that it plans to introduce new cassava varieties and advanced farming techniques to over 500,000 hectares of land in African countries.
The improved varieties and techniques are expected to raise the yield of the root crops above 17 tonnes per hectare, said Xie Jianghui, vice head of the CATAS.
The plan was announced to warm applause at the second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture, which concluded on Wednesday in the city of Sanya in south China’s Hainan Province.
The institute will help countries including Nigeria, Mozambique and the Republic of the Congo breed better varieties, improve cultivation techniques and raise the level of mechanization on cassava farms.
It will also build agriculture demonstration centers to promote commercialization and large-scale production in major cassava-producing countries.
Xie said the institute aims to bring both better cassava varieties and processing techniques to Africa, with the dual goal of revving up the yield to bolster food security and raising small farmers’ income to reduce poverty.
“Two major problems faced in Africa are the low per-hectare output of cassavas and the lack of processing to help the crops grown by small farmers enter the market,” he said.
The CATAS rose to the forefront of China’s cassava breeding and cultivation technologies amid the country’s drive to ensure food security and to turn cassavas into an important industrial ingredient. The institute has bred more than 20 high-yielding, disease-resistant cassava varieties, and developed various cassava cultivation and processing technologies.
Starch-rich cassava provides food for more than 200 million people in Africa and is an important food security crop for the continent long plagued by hunger and malnutrition.
Speaking highly of the plan, African participants of the forum said it is essentially a technological transfer that will empower Africa in its battle with hunger and poverty.
“What Africa would need is to ensure that there are more young scientists to work with the Chinese counterparts to acquire the relevant technology,” said Felix Dapare Dakora, former president of the African Academy of Sciences.