The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said it has worked with researchers to develop an integrated weed control package in a kit known as the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management.
Mr Godwin Atser, the Digital Extension Advisory Services Specialist of the organisation made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
“In the last five years, the team of researchers has developed the kit combining the best-bet agronomic practices and the use of environmentally friendly herbicides.
“The team worked under the Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) and the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI),’’ he said.
He said the package was now being disseminated to help improve the livelihoods of farmers.
He said the team had joined forces with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to train 659 spray service providers in communities in Abia, Benue, Ogun, and Oyo state.
“The spray service providers comprise young men who already exist in local communities, but are now being empowered on the safe use and application of herbicides.
“During the training, which had both practical and theoretical sessions, participants were taught safety and correct use of herbicides, and the use of best-bet agronomic practices in cassava farming systems.
“There was also a practical session on calibration using knapsack sprayers.
“A breakdown of trained participants across states showed that Abia had 105 participants, Benue had 101 participants, Ogun had 122 participants, and Oyo had 331 participants,’’ he said in the statement.
Atser said through this approach, the researchers were addressing the issue of child labour as well as building local capacities among youth to deal with the problem of weeds.
“Moreover, the approach is helping to provide sustainable jobs for young people in local communities,’’ he said.
The statement quoted Ms Linda J. Halim, the Assistant Director of NAFDAC in Ogun as describing the training of spray service providers as a step in the right direction.
Halim commended IITA-CWMP/ ACAI for organising the training, stressing that it would raise farmers’ consciousness on the safe use of herbicides, create jobs, protect and preserve the environment, and improve livelihoods.
Some of the spray service providers who participated in the training described the training as a ‘life-saving event’.
“Most of us spray herbicides without personal protective equipment, and sometimes we use herbicides’ containers for storing water or cooking oil.
“Through this training, we have discovered that these are wrong practices because empty containers of herbicides contaminate either the water or cooking oil, which affects our health.
“If I go home, I will tell my wife and other members of the community to dispose of empty containers of herbicides properly,” a farmer, Mr. Emmanuel Tur said.
Another farmer, Rachel Olanipekun said the training demonstrated the must-haves of any spray service provider.
“We have learned how to protect ourselves, and I thank IITA for training us. This training is an eye-opener for all of us,” she added.
Alfred Dixon, Project Leader for the Cassava Weed Management project, said the feedback from participants was exciting.
“Through the training, we saw farmers making commitment in terms of behavioral change. This makes me happy,” he said.
The training was conducted with the support of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB).
Others were the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi (FUAM) and the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs), including NAFDAC.