(Tetun) After maize and rice, cassava is the third most important staple crop of Timorese farming families. However, farmers can have difficulty accessing planting materials (cuttings) of the higher-yielding varieties MAF-SoL have researched and released into the National Seed System.
To address this issue, MAF-SoL have supported community groups and individuals to establish cassava cuttings production centres in Aileu, Ainaro, Baucau, Covalima, Dili, Ermera, Lautem and Liquica.
“Majority of these production centres are managed by community seed production groups and in some cases by individual lead farmers,” says Leoneto Pedro Hornai, MAP-SoL National Community Seed Coordinator.
“And these centres will supply fresh cutting of high-yield cassava varieties Ai-luka 2 and Ai-luka 4 to interested farmers in the respective municipalities,” he added.
Similar to the 31 sweet potato cutting production centres (supplying planting materials of Hohrae 1, 2 and 3) established last year, the local cassava production centres will improve farmer access by reducing the cost, time and distance required for distribution.
“Through these production centres fresh cassava cuttings are much closer to farmers. They don’t have to worry about late distribution or risk of getting damaged cuttings,” Leoneto says.
“Through these production centres fresh cassava cuttings are much closer to farmers. They don’t have to worry about late distribution or risk of getting damaged cuttings”
“The production centres are also helping raise awareness of the improved varieties, Ai-luka 2 and Ai-luka 4 that produce 65% more than local varieties, and will help sustain the source of these varieties after the SoL program terminates next year.”
The cassava cutting production centres in 11 municipalities currently cover a total area of 4.3ha and together can potentially produce more than 500,000 cuttings in the next planting season. This amount of cassava planting materials can be used in more than 50ha of land for food (tuber) production.
A community seed production group (CSPG) in Atauro, Gender Unidade Hun Besik, manages the 0.5 ha cassava production centres will soon harvest their cassava cuttings.
“It will be our first cassava cutting harvest. We hope we get good production and we will distribute it to farming families in Atauro,” says the said the group leader Alice Ximenes Soares.
“We will only sell the cuttings for farmers to plant. The young leaves and the tubers we will use for home consumption.”
The cassava cutting production centres operate under the same system as sweet potato cutting production centres. Vulnerable households can get the cuttings using vouchers and other farmers wanting to plant Ai-luka 2 and Ai-luka 4 can contact their Suco Extension Officer or Community Seed Coordinator in the MAF municipal office.