Harvestplus Country Manager chairs IITA-BASICS 11 cassava project

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By Chidinma Ewunonu-Aluko
Ibadan, July 26, 2020 The Harvestplus Country Manager, Dr Paul Ilona, has been selected as the Chair of the Steering/Advisory Committee of the Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2, (BASICS-II) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

The IITA Digital Extension and Advisory Services Specialist, Mr Godwin Atser, announced this in a statement on Sunday in Ibadan.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that BASICS II aims to create a community of commercial seed entrepreneurs across the cassava value chain by catalysing dissemination of improved varieties.

According to Atser, the project, driven by IITA, will focus on Nigeria and Tanzania with a spillover effect on other African countries.

He noted that Ilona, who was unanimously selected for the position, worked with IITA before joining HarvestPlus.

“During his stint with IITA, Ilona worked with breeders particularly, Dr Alfred Dixon, to develop hundreds of improved cassava varieties in several African countries.

“His work on cassava breeding and improvement earned him a national honour in DR Congo in 2013 and one of the best varieties released in that country was named after him.

“The “ILONA” cassava variety (MV2007/126) yields 21-47 tonnes per hectare with resistance to Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and a good level of tolerance to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD).

“Ilona worked with farmers in participatory variety selection and fast-tracked cassava recovery in the DR Congo after the CMD invasion.

“He was instrumental in moving cassava breeding, looking at the bigger picture of value chains, and helped to link farmers to processors,” he said.

He quoted Dr Kenton Dashiell (IITA Deputy Director-General for Partnerships Delivery) and Alfred Dixon (IITA -Director and Technical Advisor to BASICS-II) as describing the selection of Ilona as a round peg in the round hole.

They expressed confidence that he would deliver, according to Atser.

NAN reports that in HarvestPlus, Ilona had championed the dissemination of pro-Vitamin A cassava (popularly called yellow cassava) to millions of farmers in Nigeria.

His efforts led to the acceptance and consumption of yellow cassava in Nigeria.

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