Farmers prefer locally bred CBSD-resistant cassava clones in DRC

The USAID-funded Action to Control Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo project, on 15 June, hosted a Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) to evaluate the CBSD-tolerant cassava clones currently on trial. The PVS took place in the Ruzizi Plain, with farmers invited to participate.

IITA is implementing the project in partnership with the National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research (INERA) to counter CBSD, a disease that causes significant damage to cassava production in DRC. This evaluation follows five years of breeding research at four different stations. At year 3 of the project, most of the best-bet improved varieties grown in the country, in addition to the best-selected clones at the end of the breeding scheme, were subjected to high-pressure CBSD stress in four different locations. Out of the 30 cassava genotypes evaluated that year, only seven were CBSD-tolerant in the fields.

These seven clones are currently being reevaluated in a trial field in Kinyinya near Katogota, located in the Itara county, Uvira territory. Fifty participants—including 30 farmers, among whom 70% were women—had the opportunity to evaluate and select their preferred cassava clones according to their criteria.

IITA, INERA, and the National Seed regulation service (SENASEM) organized the participatory evaluation six months after planting to select the best cassava clones, based primarily on leaf quality for the leaves market segment. Three clones, including one previously tolerant to root necrosis disease in Western DRC, were most preferred by farmers.

At the end of the activity, Project Manager Sikirou Mouritala pointed out, “It is worth noting that the three most preferred cassava clones by the farmers are locally bred genotypes.” The lesson here is that sustainability of production of locally bred genotypes deserves more attention in the breeding program in DRC.

INERA Director Nocy Ruhebuza said, “All the improved varieties introduced to restore cassava production during the mosaic pandemic from the 2000s till today are susceptible to CBSD; and research results submitted for farmers’ appreciation are timely, relieving the pain of cassava stakeholders in the Ruzizi Plain and elsewhere in the DRC.

”Farmers expressed their wish to see these selected clones made available for multiplication during the next growing season beginning in September. According to Fatuma Kayengele, a farmer from Katogota, “These innovations will allow us to increase our production and incomes and fight hunger, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

After farmers selected the three best clones, the provincial coordinator of SENASEM, Mazambi Jonathan Byakombe, assured them that their involvement in the activity ensures that the best-selected genotypes are published in the national catalog as soon as possible.

The next step will be to assess the root quality and CBSD-resistance of these clones at harvest.

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