FarmBiz Africa

Researchers set to develop cassava variety that fights climate change

East African farmers may soon benefit from a climate change resilient cassava in a bid to boost food security.

Researchers from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) in Tanzania, in collaboration with Basque Institute for Research and Development in Agriculture (NEIKER) in Spain, are evaluating and developing cassava cultivars that will be adaptable to the climate change induced stresses.

Cassava has been identified as an important source of food for a fifth of the population in Africa, Asia and South America and as a perennial crop; it does well on poor soils with little rainfall.

Despite this, the crop is threatened by climate change owing to unreliable rainfall patterns, heat waves and decreasing temperatures in addition to diseases such cassava mosaic, cassava brown streak, bacterial blight and white flies.

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cassava plant field

Cassava plant field. Photo: courtesy

“Although cassava is considered a hardy crop, the effects of global warming cannot be underestimated as they affect the overall crop production,” said Prof. Elijah Ateka, of the Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Agriculture, Jomo Kenyatta University.

The project therefore seeks to develop cassava varieties that can withstand harsh weather, diseases and drought.

“In this, over 70 varieties in Makueni, Busia and Kisii counties in Kenya are evaluated to identify these desired traits before being recommended to farmers for cultivation,” said Prof. Ateka.

The research is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as part of sustainable development goals of no poverty, zero hunger and climate action.

According to the Economic Survey 2018 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya produced 1.112m metric tonnes of cassava in 2017.

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