FAO has joined the call for urgent action to prevent the spread of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) in Africa. The two diseases, both transmitted by whiteflies and the movement of infected planting materials, pose an enormous threat to the food security and livelihoods of 135 million people in East Africa, and the continent’s estimated 300 million cassava consumers.
FAO joined 18 prominent international and national agricultural and development organizations meeting under the auspices of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) in Italy in May. The GCP21 agreed on a plan of action and a set of measures, containing three priorities: contain CBSD in East Africa and prevent its spread in the rest of the African continent; eliminate or decrease the impact of both diseases; and prevent the spread of whiteflies and cassava viruses globally.
‘To be successful, African ownership of these plans, together with commitment and funding from the international donor community, are a priority,’ says Jan Helsen, Senior Agriculture Coordinator at FAO South Sudan. ‘If successfully implemented, these plans will help to feed hundreds of millions of people, alleviate poverty and potentially contribute to the creation of millions of jobs.’
Africa represents roughly half the world’s cassava production. With 90% of cassava used for food, it is an inexpensive and essential part of the diet for the poor. CMD is spreading to Zambia in the south and as far west as Cameroon, while CBSD is spreading very rapidly across East and Central Africa. If the disease reaches Nigeria – the world’s biggest producer and consumer of cassava – it could have widespread repercussions in the country.