South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday, launched two cassava crop varieties.
It said that the two cassava crop varieties were imported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Andrea Heath, deputy head of the ICRC Delegation in South Sudan, said the Mayombe and Sawasawa that were resistant to cassava mosaic disease and streak virus would improve food productivity, thus helping mitigate chronic hunger.
“Cassava is a crucial component of household food security in many communities in South Sudan, and it continues to grow in importance.
“It is affected by various diseases like cassava mosaic disease, brown streak virus, in addition to poor agricultural practices severely undermining production,’’ Heath said during the certification ceremony in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
More than 7.7 million people or two-thirds of the population in South Sudan are facing a crisis or worse levels of hunger.
In addition, 1.4 million children under five years of age were facing acute malnutrition, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
In 2019, the ICRC imported these resistant varieties from the DRC and also introduced them in the Central Africa Republic.
Heath said that the two cassava varieties had proven great success, in terms of improving food productivity and keeping the virus at bay after being piloted in Eastern Equatoria and Western Equatoria states, both in South Sudan.
Loro George Leju Lugor, director-general for research, training and extension service in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said they were now planning to hand out these new varieties to specific farmers in selected parts of the country.
George Tadu, director- general of research in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said cassava remained an important food crop in most parts of the Equatoria region, where cassava roots and leaves were widely eaten.
“Cassava mosaic disease is common in all of the cassava growing areas, and it is really a problem.
“Cassava streak virus was identified in Western Equatoria state since 2006, it is a much more serious disease than cassava mosaic, and these varieties if released will help increase the farmers’ resilience to disease pressure,’’ Tadu said.
He added that these new high-yielding cassava varieties would improve food and income security for farmers in cassava-growing areas.
“We also want to train people who are involved in cassava multiplication, train farm monitors, extension workers to do rapid multiplication of these varieties.
Also,we want to disseminate and adapt these cassava mosaic resistant varieties in major parts of the country,’’ Tadu said.
Cassava is a major source of food for more than 200 million people in Africa.
It is also the second most important major source of carbohydrates in Sub-Saharan Africa, and about 40 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa depends on cassava.
Simon Duku, lecturer in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Juba, said South Sudan needed to intensify agricultural research activities in order to find a variety of crops that could adapt to different climatic conditions.
“We still don’t have clear crop varieties that are adapted to our climate, so we really need to do a lot of research work to adapt some varieties to some specific regions in South Sudan.
“We know the challenges of food insecurity that we are encountering; I actually encourage such kinds of activities,’’ he said. (Xinhua/NAN)
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