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Releasing disease-resistant varieties of cassava in Africa
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UPoCA (Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa) was part of the long-term, international effort to manage the food price crisis (which started in 2008). The project shared 59 new cassava varieties with at least 11,540 smallholders across seven African countries. The project worked with sub-contracted seed farms, which kept the cassava roots and some of the stems, turning over most of the stems to the project to deliver to other farmers, especially those linked to cassava-based industries. The project established 290 community seed multiplication farms to receive the stems from contractors, and multiply seed for community members. Various pests and diseases limit cassava production in Africa, but cassava mosaic disease (CMD) is the most serious. The new, high-yielding varieties distributed by the project were endowed with resistance to CMD, to other diseases, or to drought. Farmers received training in the rapid multiplication of the stems, to enhance community access to the new material. The project also trained various processors to make cassava graters and mills, and to process high quality flour and other products from cassava. Over time the new varieties (and rapid multiplication, combined with the stimulus of producing for market) increased the production of cassava in the project countries.