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Nebbi cassava farmers lose millions to disease, factory delay blamed

Over 600 cassava farmers registered under the project component of the Agricultural Cluster Development Program (ACDP) in Nebbi are counting losses after a strange cassava disease raided their plantations.  

Launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), implementation of the ACDP project kicked off in 2018 with the stated objectives being to boost farm productivity, production, and marketable volumes of selected agricultural commodities, including Beans, Maize, Rice, Cassava and Coffee.

In 2018, farmers in Nebbi were mobilized to form 30-member groups that would plant the improved Nasser-19 cassava variety and supply mini cassava factories that would also be established in the district under the project.

However, farmers are increasingly getting disillusioned as mature cassava plantations suffer decimation by diseases that have attacked the crop recently.

Many farmers report making losses to the tune of millions of shillings after they were forced to clear entire plantations of rotting cassava decimated by ‘strange’ diseases that cause the tubers to turn yellowish in color. 

Factory delays

According to the Production Officer Nebbi district, Joyce Piwa, over 40% of cassava farmers in Nebbi have had their crop affected by suspected cassava brown streak disease and cassava soft root rot, a situation she blamed it on delayed completion of the cassava processing factory in the district and limited marketability of cassava products.

“The cassava variety approved to meet factory demand under ACDP is supposed to be harvested after one year, but due to delays in factory setup it has gone up to more than  two years. That is why our farmers are facing challenges of their cassava getting rotten,” Piwa said.

James Kerchan, a cassava farmer from Kaal-Wang Parish was one of the pioneer farmers in Nebbi district under ACDP.

Kerchan says he planted four acres of Nasser-19, the recommended cassava variety, at a cost of over Shs 4m, but he now fears he will not be able to recoup even half of his investment since his cassava is rotting in the garden before the cassava factory is commissioned. 

“We spent a lot of money with hopes of benefiting from the ACDP project but we have not realized any profits and yet our cassavas are getting rotten from the plantations” Kerchan said. 

Another farmer, Merriam Akai Azonye, whose crop is under attack by the disease, is skeptical that any benefits will come of the cassava factory even when it opens eventually unless the diseases affecting the crop are dealt with.

“I thought cassava production would be the only enterprise to venture in as a   boost to our livelihoods financially but our hopes are buried with our cassava getting rotten on a large scale,” Akai said. 

Nebbi Production Officer, Joyce Piwa, urged cassava farmers to explore alternative local markets in order to mitigate their losses.

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