Efforts in Africa to commercialize root crops and tubers such as sweet potato, cassava, potato and yams have been minimal and ineffective, according to a report in BusinessGhana.
Most of the crops are grown by poor farmers (women) on marginal lands, therefore “not vital for both food security and income generation,” said Mohammed Alfa, Ghana’s deputy minister of environment, science and technology innovations.
Alfa spoke at the Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops Africa Branch in Accra.
The goal of the five-day symposium was to try and figure out how to commercialize and improve the competitiveness of Africa’s root and tuber crop products. More than 200 people attended.
“The potential of these crops is yet to be fully exploited,” said Nzola Mahungu, society president and representative for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Democratic Republic of Congo. “Root and tuber crops play an important role in ensuring food security in Africa, and we must tap the opportunities of these crops,” he said.
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama called for experts to open markets and trade in Africa and beyond, tapping into sustainable policies, developing business and investment opportunities and effective collaboration with other private-sector development partners such as crop scientists and industries in Latin America, Asia and Europe to learn from their experiences.
“This will facilitate competitive root and tuber crop development in our African continent as we also take advantage of the resilience (of) root crops like cassava and develop research and development plans to bring these crops into the mainstream,” he said.
Meso Mahungu, president of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture said the symposium was being held at a time when global attention to agriculture was trending up.