The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has launched the maiden edition of the Cassava Week Celebration to promote the value of cassava cultivation and utilization in Ghana.
The week celebration, which is on the theme: “Cassava – Ghana’s Golden Root for Economic Transformation’’ is aimed at raising awareness amongst Ghanaians regarding the rich diversity and benefits of the cassava crop. It is scheduled to take place from the 13th – 16th of June 2023 at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Accra and the Innovation Village Foundation at Anormawobi in the Central Region.
In a speech read by the Director of the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute, Prof. Shiloh Osae, on behalf of the Director General of GAEC, Prof. Samuel Dampare, he emphasised that this programme was part of GAEC’s efforts to support the government of Ghana for the utilization of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to improve cassava varieties for national development. “Whiles research works are endless, the rate of adoption and utilization of the technologies developed needs to be improved in Ghana”, he added.
In his keynote address, the Managing Director of Ayensu Starch Company Limited, Mr. Evans Kwame Ayim, noted that more than 70 % of farmers in Ghana are involved in the production of cassava, making it a significant root crop in the country’s agricultural system.
He stated that cassava is a major source of carbohydrates for most people in Ghana, as well as a regular source of income for most rural dwellers.
According to Mr. Ayim, although cassava is mostly thought of as a food crop, encouraging local processing and consumption of cassava-based products will generate income for households and create jobs for the Ghanaian economy.
“The potential of cassava as an industrial crop cannot be overemphasized. Ghana’s economy stands to benefit greatly if steps are taken to industrialize cassava. Cassava can be processed into starch, ethanol, high maltose syrup, etc”, he revealed.
He also added that Globally the starch industry is worth over $97billion US Dollars which the country can take advantage of..
Mr. Ayim expressed appreciation for BNARI’s research initiatives which have yielded significant results in the development of high yielding cassava varieties for farmers.
“BNARI in collaboration with University of Cape Coast, has released to farmers, five high yielding cassava varieties namely Nyonku agbeli, Kponu agbeli, Fufuhene bankye, Ampesihema bankye and Tetteh bankye. However, these varieties have not been adopted widely by farmers due to inadequate publicity and unavailability of planting materials. Hence, the expected socioeconomic impact on farmers have not been realized” he said.
He urged BNARI to form partnerships with industry players that will make their cassava varieties available and accessible to farmers, allowing them to produce enough raw materials for Ghana’s few cassava processing factories as well as the local market.
On his part, the Director of BNARI, Dr. Michael Osae stated that Cassava has the potential to transform Ghana’s economy because it can be used in sectors like the pharmaceutical, beverage, and textile industries.
He stated that the Institute chose to emphasize cassava in honour of its 30th anniversary to highlight BNARI technologies and innovations in the cassava value chain.
“BNARI has developed technologies such as Mutation Breeding for breeding new varieties of cassava and other crops, soil moisture and nutrient management, crop and pest disease management which are technologies that can be applied to improve cassava production. We have also worked on fortifying gari with micronutrients and soybeans to develop a soybean-gari blend known as “proGari” he added.
The Keynote speaker later launched the Cassava Week Celebration followed by an exhibition event to showcase the various BNARI products and technologies.
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