In sub-Saharan Africa where cassava is an important staple crop for millions of people, IITA has played a leading role in developing improved cassava varieties that are disease and pest resistant, lower in cyanide, drought resistant, early maturing, and high yielding. A recent IITA survey on the impact of such improved varieties showed that on average farmers saw nearly a 30% increase in productivity resulting in a per capita increase of US$0.26 a day.
IITA has also successfully developed a genetic engineering platform for cassava varieties preferred by farmers, with higher yields, more starch, a longer shelf life, and disease resistance. While many African laboratories do not have the expertise for this type of advanced genetic engineering, IITA is working with national and international partners to improve the capacity of government-run laboratories to establish cassava transformation platforms by training scientists, students, and technicians.
To date, more than 400 cassava varieties have been developed for resource-poor farmers – improvements that have even helped areas of sub-Saharan Africa avoid humanitarian crises and food insecurity.