Resource-poor farmers who are participating in the demonstration farms being organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)-led Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) have said that the project intervention is making life easier for them. According to them, the project is a “burden lifter.” They said they have “suffered over the years, seeking solutions to weed management in cassava farming systems.”
For farmer Fortunatus Okeke, the IITA-CWMP is perhaps the best thing to have happened to farmers in recent times.
“It was a ‘new normal’ to hand weed and face drudgery. But now, IITA has brought solutions to control weeds. We are glad for this,” he said.
Another farmer, Abu Ogundapo who is based in Abadapo village, said that the yields from the demonstration farm were unprecedented. “We have never had it so good like this,” he said, while admiring his cassava harvest.
Farmer Esther Ayangbade from Otuu village said, “This project has made cassava farming easier. I am glad to be part of this.”
Responsible for between 50 and 80 percent of yield losses in cassava farming systems, weeds rank high among the constraints to cassava production in Africa, limiting the yield of the root crop to less than 10 tons per hectare in Nigeria.
Farmers plant cassava to the extent to which they can control weeds, notes Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader of the IITA CWMP. For women, who contribute up to 90 percent to weeding labor, it is a “nightmare” imagining the emergence of weeds and having to clear them. In some cases, children of school age are withdrawn from schools to support weeding operations, a practice that undermines the future of this vulnerable group.
With the interventions of the IITA-CWMP using integrated weed control, farmers are heaving a sigh of relief from the ‘yoke’ of weed infestation in cassava.
The integrated weed management package comprises the use of best-bet agronomic practices plus the use of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides.
Using this approach, Prof Friday Ekeleme, Project Investigator for the IITA-CWMP, has reported that farmers are now doubling the national yield average of cassava—crossing the 20 tons per hectare mark to 32 tons per hectare in some cases.
Participating farmers in the demo farms interviewed said they were willing to adopt the weed management practices, a signpost that the intervention is relevant.