By Xinhua News Agency
Kenyan cassava experts on Tuesday began a three-day meeting in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to seek ways of boosting production of the country’s second most important food tuber crop.
The National Cassava Conference and Expo 2023 (NCCE), which is aimed at enhancing cassava production, productivity and value-addition, gathered more than 1,000 experts and 150 exhibitors from across the country.
In his opening remarks, Paul Rono, principal secretary of the State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, said it is unfortunate that Kenya imports cassava despite having fertile and arable land.
Rono said Kenya is embracing high-quality seeds to promote cassava production to meet challenges in food security and commercialization internally. “We are looking at ways of initiating the application of high-quality cassava seeds to promote production to reduce imports,” he told the participants.
Cassava, which is the second most important root crop after the Irish potato grown throughout Kenya, is a drought-tolerant crop that provides a basic diet for most rural households to address food insecurity and mitigate poverty.
Rono said Kenya’s traditional cassava production systems are failing to address household food security and income, forcing the country to import food from the neighboring countries to meet the consumption demand.
Kenya currently produces 1 million tonnes of cassava, most of which is consumed locally, but the country has the potential to produce more than 3 million tonnes annually, said the official.
The event, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development and Self Help Africa, a charity organization, also aims to raise public awareness about the importance of cassava as food in improving national nutrition, security, and socioeconomic development throughout the country.
Adolfo Cires, program manager for Finance and Private Sector Development at the European Union Delegation to Kenya, said the development and transfer of technology for cassava will continue to limit the development and application of better agronomic practices due to the present economic crisis.
Cires noted that factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, surging inflation, debt tightening, and climate emergency have led to reduced funding for research in agriculture.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, the initiative to promote cassava as a climate-friendly and pest-resistant crop aims to identify tuber crops as an important source of food for humans and livestock, particularly as the effects of climate change become more apparent.
Cassava, which is high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, folic acid, manganese, and potassium, is the world’s fourth most important food crop after maize, wheat, and rice.