The Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga has said that the collaboration between IITA and Sudan will put smiles on the faces of farmers in the northern African country.
This was contained in an address to a presidential delegation from Sudan that spent five days in Nigeria and visited IITA to familiarize themselves with the Institute, exchange ideas, and explore areas for collaboration with IITA on cassava transformation.
The collaboration between Sudan and IITA aims at reducing the importation of wheat and saving the country’s foreign exchange. The collaboration is also part of a broader decision that would facilitate the introduction of improved cassava varieties to Sudan.
DG Sanginga said, “We are ready to expand into Sudan with a strengthened diversified portfolio to contribute to improved livelihoods and incomes for small-scale farmers in the country.”
Leading the six-person delegation, Professor Ahmed Mohamed Suliman, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Khartoum, said the country desired to become a cassava growing nation for the sole purpose of converting the root crop to cassava flour that would replace wheat in baking.
According to him, Sudan plans to replicate the cassava bread model in Nigeria that was developed by IITA and partners. He added that when implemented, Sudan will be able to make up the shortfall of flour that is currently being experienced.
“Our Presidency is very much interested in supporting the inclusion of High Quality Cassava Flour in bread and other forms of confectionery as part of efforts to improve food security and the livelihoods of farmers in the country. On that note, I would initiate the immediate development of a MoU with IITA to serve as a guide to common interests between the two institutions,” Prof Suliman added.
The visit of the delegation culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Dr Abuelgasim Elzein, Head, Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, University of Khartoum, said that even though the Republic of Sudan was not a cassava producing country, as soon as the cassava breeding program is replicated into the farming system, agriculture will take on a new dimension.
Other members of the delegation were Dr Elhadi Ali Ibrahim Elkhalil, Prof Awadalla Abdalla Abdelmula, Dr Abdalla Ibrahim Yousif, and Hala Ahmed Elamin.
Dr Alfred Dixon, IITA Director for Development & Delivery noted that cassava as the third-largest crop in the tropics, is a major staple food in sub-Saharan Africa, providing a basic staple for over half a billion people.
He added that Sudan’s interest in cassava was a decision in the right direction as cassava is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils.
Dr Dixon added that with the help of cassava experts from IITA and good agronomic and weed management practices, “Sudan in no distant time will be known for cassava production.”
Highlights of the 5-day visit included presentations by key IITA staff: Frederick Schreurs, CEO Business Incubation Platform; Ismail Rabbi, IITA Molecular Geneticist / Breeder; Festus Okunlola, IITA Youth Agriprenuer (IYA); Iheanacho Okike, IITA Cassava Peel Technologist; and Thierno Diallo, IITA Machine Fabricator. The delegates also had the opportunity to undergo hands-on training at the IITA Food and Nutrition Science Laboratory on how to bake bread, croissant, chin-chin, and Tidbits, using cassava flour.