Scientists from around the world have converged in Blantyre to discuss how they can save the Cassava Crop from diseases considering its potential in boosting the food and economic muscle among small holder farmers in most parts of Africa.
The Africa Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP) is a global scientific initiative where scientists are developing ways of eradicating the famous Cassava Whitefly which is responsible for the transmission of the two main Cassava viral diseases namely Cassava Mosaic Disease as well as the Cassava Brown Streak.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda officially opened the second annual general meeting of ACWP in Blantyre on Tuesday where he articulated the importance the project holds in improving Malawi's economic and food status.
"This is a timely project as it is happening at a time when Malawi is looking for sustainable solutions to the food shortage at hand as well as the economic problems that have accelerated due to poor rainfall patterns that have resulted to poor yields," he explained.
According to the minister, Cassava is one of the potential alternatives from maize as it thrives even in low rainfall and does not require fertilizer.
"For the past two agriculture years, maize production has shrunk due to either heavy rains or dry spells and as government we are looking for alternative ways to increase food production amid the ever growing population and one of which is crop diversification which calls for serious attention on cassava and other tubers," added the minister acknowledging the importance that the ACWP has on Malawi.
ACWP national leading scientist for Malawi, Donald Kachigamba concurred with the minister on the importance of the Cassava Crop to the country's nutrition and economy.
Kachigamba who is the scientist responsible for the project which is being conducted at Bvumbe Research Station indicated that the problem is more severe in the lakeshore cassava producing districts as compared to the other parts of the country.
He explained that in Malawi, the project is being implemented at grassroots level where interventions are being done in the farmers' fields with emphasis on observation for diseased plants and prompt destruction of the same.
The ACWP commenced in October 2014 and the current meeting is the second of the agreed annual forums meant for notes sharing and approach enforcement.
The project is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with the University of Greenwich of London as the main secretariat and is being carried out in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.