At WAVE, we strongly believe in the Ivorian proverb: “A small hammer always manages to break big stones”. Taking this as inspiration, WAVE has been working relentlessly to fight the spread of cassava viral diseases.
In March 2019, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, WAVE Executive Director Dr. Justin Pita attended a training and knowledge-sharing workshop initiated by the Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Women, Family and Children. He made a presentation on cassava viral diseases to nearly 90 women farmers.
Also, in March, WAVE’s headquarters in Côte d’Ivoire hosted a regional capacity-building workshop led by experts from the UK-headquartered program AgShare.Today. Fifty-five Country Team Leaders, researchers and students from the seven WAVE implementing countries took part in this major training seminar.
In addition, Covenant University, which hosts the WAVE program in southern Nigeria, organized a series of traveling workshops designed to raise awareness for stakeholders along the cassava value chain on the risks associated with the spread of cassava viral diseases in Nigeria.
The third issue of The WAVE is dedicated to strengthening the skills of researchers and students and raising awareness on cassava viral diseases and measures for prevention. Let us discover together WAVE’s contribution to food security in Africa through the fight against cassava viral diseases.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter!
On March 8, 2019, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which emerged from the social movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and Europe.
This worldwide celebration was formalized in 1975 during the International Women's Year and became an annual celebration on the United Nations initiative.
March 8 represents a day “when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is also an opportunity to take stock of past struggles and achievements, and above all, to prepare for the future and opportunities that await future generations of women” (www.un.org/en/events/womensday/history.shtml).
In Côte d’Ivoire, the government and private organizations celebrated women by organizing several events in their honor. From March 6-7, the Ministry of Women, Family and Children organized a workshop for women in the food sector in Bouaké (the second largest city in the country) on the theme “Digitalization, an alternative to women’s empowerment in the food sector”.
This training and experience-sharing workshop aimed at creating synergies for the improvement of the food value chain to facilitate women’s empowerment through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The main objectives of the workshop were to:
- Raise awareness on good agricultural practices
- Sensitize women on the use of ICTs
- Create a stakeholders’ network for the food value chain
Keeping in mind the importance of cassava for Ivorians, Ms. Bakayoko Ly Ramata, Minister of Women, Family and Children, previously Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, invited WAVE to the workshop. WAVE’s contribution to food security through the fight against cassava viral diseases meant it was a natural ally for the organizers of the workshop.
On the first day of the workshop, Dr. Justin Pita made a presentation to 90 women (including producers, traders, processors and representatives of both the host Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) titled “How to recognize and fight cassava diseases?”
Presenting the visual symptoms of the widespread Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), Dr. Pita drew parallels between the well-known mode of transmission for malaria (infected female Anopheles mosquitoes) and CMD (whiteflies). CMD also has a second mode of transmission – the replanting of infected cassava cuttings – and Dr. Pita called on producers to help control the spread of CMD by avoiding this method of replanting.
Dr. Pita also spoke about Cassava Brown Streak disease (CBSD, also called the “Ebola of Cassava” although it is not transmissible to humans). Luckily, CBSD is not yet present in Côte d’Ivoire, but it is moving from East Africa toward Central and West Africa. Dr. Pita noted that the recent outbreak of Ebola in West African countries surprised our governments, though it has been present in Central Africa since 1976. Consequently, he pleaded for more proactiveness in facing CBSD, which can destroy up to 100% of cassava crops:
“If CBSD occurs, we have to be ready. We must work together, with our sisters, our mothers, to find solutions”.
"Just like with human beings, we are able to treat diseased cassava plants"
Discussions between Dr. Pita and the women farmers ended on a hopeful note with a presentation on WAVE’s laboratories at Université Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY (UFHB), where healthy plants are produced. As Dr. Pita explained: “We treat diseased plants in our laboratories at UFHB. The healthy part of the plants is removed and regenerated. As the plants grow, they are placed in greenhouses to strengthen them before their distribution to producers. In one year, we can produce between 12,000 and 20,000 cuttings while individually, you can only produce 100 cuttings.”
Before answering the attendees’ many questions, Dr. Pita urged them to make their voices heard by government so that trainings to recognize cassava diseases can be provided throughout the country and healthy cuttings distributed to cassava farmers.
Questions and answers
Speaker 1: Ms. Aka Blandine, Producer
“Last year, we planted 3 hectares of cassava with the cuttings (Bocou 1 type) distributed by the National Rural Development Support Agency (ANADER) and we had no yield. The cassava harvested was not good. We were only able to get 25,000 XOF out of it. We are relying on you for a healthy food supply.”
“I completely understand your situation. When I started my own cassava plantation, I used cuttings from ANADER. I can tell you that I have faced the same difficulties: 75% of the cuttings provided by ANADER were infected. To overcome this problem, we trained our colleagues in ANADER in the Dabou region with the limited means at our disposal. However, as you can see, these resources are insufficient. So please the government so that we have the necessary means to cover the whole country.”
Speaker 2: Ms. Delphine, Producer
“We know that 95% of Ivorian women plant cassava to make a living. How can you train us to identify the symptoms of cassava diseases? Also, how can you address the problem of cassava flow and marketing?”
“We have the willingness and ability to train you. Also, this workshop demonstrates your level of organization, which will facilitate planning for decentralized training workshops. On the issue of cassava flow and marketing, we are aware of nodes in the cassava value chain. To this end, we are currently discussing setting up a project to address this problem with the Ivorian government. We have received positive feedback and hope the necessary funding to implement it will soon be available.”
The UK-based AgShare.Today team, which has proven expertise in supporting research and development projects, shared its knowledge with workshop attendees over the course of two weeks. Training sessions covered four broad topics:
- Journal article and proposal writing
- Project management
- High-level advocacy and presenting WAVE to stakeholders
- Data and statistical analyses
The workshop’s opening ceremony took place on March 5, 2019 in the presence of the representative of the Director-General of Scientific Research and Innovation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UFHB’s Vice-President in charge of research and innovation, AgShare.Today’s Co-Director and several national media outlets.
The government welcomed WAVE’s efforts toward ensuring food security in Africa by leading the fight against cassava viral diseases. The importance of effective scientific communication for the research community and cassava smallholder farmers was also emphasized.
Université Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY’s Vice-President in charge of research and innovation making a speech during the workshop opening ceremony
The workshop ended with a friendly gathering in the idyllic setting of Jacqueville, a village near Abidjan. Participants not only demonstrated their sporting talent (through football and volleyball tournaments) but also the true spirit of sharing that symbolizes the WAVE family.
This fortnight of dynamic and inspiring sessions, enriched by the diversity of the participants’ backgrounds and the trainers’ experience, fostered highly interactive knowledge-sharing discussions. Attendees expressed their gratitude to the trainers as well as BMGF for their support.