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Production and delivery systems of good quality cassava planting materials in sub-Saharan Africa
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The high demand for good quality planting materials of improved cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) cultivars by the farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are not fully met in a timely manner. Perishability, slow multiplication rate and bulkiness of planting materials, weak definition of multiplication responsibilities among various national agricultural institutions engaged in the promotion of root crop production, lack of a well-defined seed sector, and a lethargic public sector supported by short lived externally supported/ donor funded programs contribute to this limited availability of improved cassava propagules. Sustained and routine multiplication and deployment schemes of cassava planting materials are fundamental to the acceleration of research impact at the farm level and to increase its value as a cash crop. Considerable research and development efforts are being devoted at IITA in collaboration with various NARES, advanced institutions, and donor agencies to develop functional and sustainable vegetative ‘seed’ systems to intensify the production of cassava through a combination of increased availability of improved clean planting materials, appropriate cultural practices, and pest and disease control measures so as to increase the income of rural poor and enhance their food security in this region. Various mechanisms and efforts are utilized to strengthen this delivery effort at researcher, extensionist and farmer levels. Application of crop hygiene, rouging followed by selection of vigorous and healthy propagation stems (free of pests and of good physiological quality) are noted as routine activities at least among some ‘educated’ researchers and farmers. Use and production of healthy planting materials in low pest infested areas have also been proven useful in some countries. Current status of various cassava seed systems in a few selected African countries are described, in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, and lessons learnt; while recognizing the need to develop an Africa wide strategy for efficiency and effectivity in seed delivery.