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Cassava earns global awards

A major break though in cassava processing has earned global awards for a Nigerian institution. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture won two awards for in-depth researches into cassava and cocoa that helped in fighting hunger and poverty in Africa.

A statement to the Ghana Office of AfricaNews from Godwin Atser, Corporate Communications Officer (West Africa) of IITA said the awards included “Outstanding Agricultural Technology in sub-Saharan Africa and Outstanding Communications.” The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research instituted the award.

Dr Lateef Sanni Oladimeji of the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria, who is also IITA’s Postharvest Specialist received the 2008 CGIAR Regional Award for Outstanding Agricultural Technology in sub-Saharan Africa, the statement said.

The CGIAR is a strategic alliance of members, partners and international agricultural centers that mobilizes science to benefit the poor. According to CGIAR at its annual conference in Maputo, Sanni’s expertise in drying technologies has contributed to considerable income and employment gains for numerous small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria and several other West African countries.

The statement added: “Sanni initially designed a rotary dryer that increased production of cassava flour to 300 kilograms (kg) every 8 hours. It was then disseminated to cassava processing facilities in southwest and southeast Nigeria. More recently, within IITA’s Integrated Cassava Project, he assembled a team of engineers that has designed a “flash” dryer capable of drying 250 kg of cassava flour per hour.”

“His work has helped to increase the use of locally-manufactured flash dryers in Nigeria from two units before 2003, to over 60 units today. Sanni was presented the award after a short video showcasing his excellent work,” the statement said.

Communication category

On the other hand, Dr. Soniia David, IITA’s Technology Transfer Specialist, and her team at the Sustainable Tree Crops Program received the 2008 CGIAR Science Awards - Outstanding Communications Category for training farmers in West African countries to use digital video cameras as a way to share knowledge of sustainable cocoa production. By setting up Video Viewing Clubs (VVC), the team got together groups of farmers to watch and learn from the videos.

To date, 450 farmers in Ghana have participated in VVCs. Farmers who adopted the crop and pest management practices promoted by the YouTube videos are likely to increase yields by 20-40 per cent and decrease pesticide use by 10-20 per cent.
Dr Paula Bramel, IITA’s Deputy Director-General Research, received the award on behalf of David.

IITA's work on banana in Uganda was also extensively featured in the winning entry for the broadcast journalism category of the CGIAR-FARA 2008 Award for Excellence in Agricultural Science Journalism in Africa.

Patricia Oyella, editor and reporter at WBS TV in Uganda, received the award for her broadcast feature, “Saving the Cooking Banana,” shown on WBS TV and on Business Africa, a program broadcast on a network of more than 45 African and five European partner channels. The feature demonstrated the importance of this food crop in Africa, the problems faced by banana farmers, and the solutions offered by researchers.

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