Several farmers in the Terego district are happily securing the future of their families with food following the introduction of new and improved varieties of cassava.
However, with this, farmers are shifting away from local varieties following low yields and susceptibility to diseases such as cassava brown streak and cassava mosaic viruses. The new cassava varieties include NAROCast 1 and NASE19.
Unlike the traditional cassava varieties that lasted for years before harvest and are prone to diseases, the newly-introduced NAROcast1 and NASE19 varieties are disease and drought resistant and can be harvested only within a year.
The new varieties were provided to selected farmer groups by the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and USAID under the Feed the Future (FtF) project, to promote the use and commercialisation of improved technologies with yield and nutritional enhancing characteristics in Uganda.
The five-year project that started in 2020 costing $10m (about sh38b) will focus on the continued improvement of crop genetics, bio-fortifi cation, and integrated pest and disease management for both crops and livestock.
In Drikoa village, Obi parish, Omugo sub-county in Terego district, members of the Drici farmers group have testifi ed to the advantages of growing the newly introduced cassava varieties — NAROCAST-1 and NASE-19.
The farmers said the new cassava varieties have guaranteed food security for their families.
Beneficiary Farmers’ Account
David Anguyo, a member of the group, said he is fully engaged in multiplying the variety after getting the seed stock last year.
“Currently, I have planted about three-quarters of an acre of the variety after realising that it can be harvested in short term. We no longer need to wait for two years before harvesting like the local variety and they are disease resistant varieties,” Anguyo said.
He added that whereas the local varieties have sustained his family for a long time, their productivity had deteriorated.
Anguyo explained that the old cassava varieties are now infested with white flies and rot in the garden, something he noted was exposing his household to starvation.
Margret Aseru, 38, a mother of five from the same farmer group, said her children were able to eat three times a day, unlike the previous years when they would eat once a day since the same varieties can be steamed for breakfast or lunch.
Her priority, she said was to ensure that she multiplied the varieties to supply her neighbours so that everyone could be secured with food.
“I used to battle cassava diseases such as the brown streak and cassava mosaic throughout the years, but these particular varieties have given us relief and already many people are rushing to us to have the stocks. I have rented one acre of land somewhere to have the varieties multiplied,” she said.
Drici farmers group chairperson, Felix Asega, clarified that the prosperity in the group had been visible ever since the new cassava varieties were introduced a year ago.
“We received the stock as a group. We got about four sacks and after planting in the demonstration farm, each of the 30 members was given a basinful of stocks and that is where they started. Some have already multiplied and are now supplying other members of the community who are not in the groups,” he said.
Jane Angucia, 33, who was all smiles after seeing her family enjoy the fruits of the short-term cassava variety, is looking forward to reaping big from the sale of the cassava and its stock to members in the neighbouring village and non-governmental organisations.
She plans to plant over two acres before the end of this year.
She challenged other partners with such lifesaving interventions to supplement the efforts of NARO by supplying other high-quality and improved seeds so that hunger would be history in the district.
Gerald Adiga, the research officer with NARO in the root crops programme at Namulonge, said they had registered enormous successes among farmers ever since the new varieties were distributed to the farmer groups.
He said the seed stocks had been multiplied among over 200 farmers in each of the districts where farmers’ groups were supported.
According to Adiga, the new variety of cassava was distributed to four farmer groups in the districts of Arua, Maracha and Terego. It is believed that when the community members embrace the growth of NAROcast 1 and NASE19, the threats caused by hunger could become a thing of the past in the West Nile region.
He warned the benefi ciary farmers against mixing the new variety with the local varieties that were prone to diseases.
“We don’t advise the farmers to mix these varieties because purity is important. It is common practise in West Nile that farmers mix the local varieties with the newly improved varieties, which is not right because you are not just producing these varieties for consumption and we know many farmers also get money through the sale of stocks,” Adiga said