Managing cassava virus diseases in Africa
Cassava production is under threat as two viruses are raging through the fields of small-scale farmers in East and Central Africa. The Regional Cassava Initiative, coordinated by FAO, helped build the resilience of vulnerable communities through research, surveillance and policy support.
While cassava is often labeled as a second-class crop, eaten only by the poor, the plant’s industrial potential is slowly being recognized. But Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa. At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases.
A robust regional effort was required to meet the needs of local farmers. In 2009 the European Union launched the Regional Cassava Initiative, a four-year-project that helped vulnerable communities and value chain actors in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Gabon cope with CMD and CBSD. The project, coordinated by FAO Subregional Emergency Office for Eastern & Central Africa (FAO REOA), benefited over 100,000 households.
“Through the project the capacity in surveillance and disease identification was built at local, national and regional level. Scientific knowledge around the diseases has been collected and the cassava issue has now been placed on policy agendas,” explains Deborah Duveskog, Regional Emergency Officer at FAO REOA. “Tackling cassava diseases is one of the most effective ways to support the wellbeing of rural livelihoods.”
Although the project is coming to an end, certain challenges remain. Further strengthening of virus and pest surveillance and expanded training are required to ensure that the positive results of the Regional Cassava Initiative are maintained.
The Regional Cassava Initiative Closing Workshop will take place from 10 till 12 September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. Find more information here.