Cassava in West Africa

In West Africa, S.K. Hahn, A.K. Howland and E.R. Terry (1974; & Personal Communication) of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) were breeding cassava (Manihot esculenta) for resistance to both mosaic virus and bacterial blight. These workers initiated a highly imaginative scheme of sending true seed from promising crosses to schools. The children were taught how to nick the seeds with a file in order to overcome dormancy, and how to germinate them before transplanting them in the school garden. The children did their own taste tests on the leaves for use as a pot herb, and their own yield and taste tests on the tubers. Finally, each child was given stem cuttings of his or her favourites for taking home to observe resistance, and to propagate and multiply them if they so wished.

This scheme was doubly effective. First, it was an excellent education for children who would be much more inclined to do their own selection work, when they became farmers themselves. And, second, it was a wonderful form of farmer-participation in cassava breeding. It also indicates that student breeding clubs need not be confined to universities. Indeed, there could be useful co operation, with university clubs assisting their 'daughter' clubs in secondary schools.

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