By Sylvester Thompson
An independent audit team sent by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to audit its cassava project in Nigeria, has commended the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) for its cassava seed tracker system.
The five-man audit team, led by Loretta Byrnes, that visited the council at Sheda in Abuja, expressed satisfaction, especially over the council’s cassava seed tracker and other innovations.
Byrnes said she was equally impressed with the way NASC collaborated with other partner certification agencies in Tanzania and Kenya.
“NASC is above other certification agencies in Africa,’’ she said.
Bill and Melinder Gates Foundation had been sponsoring a project called Building A Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), in Nigeria since 2016, in order to make cassava sustainable.
The team came to assess what the seed industry was doing within the project life cycle and the Director-General, Dr Olusegun Ojo, gave the team an overview of the BASICS project progress report.
Most notable was the molecular laboratory, a diagnostic facility for testing viral presence in cassava seed which the team was taken to.
Another high point was the visit to the cassava seed tracker server room.
The NASC was formally all about manual paper certification, but the cassava seed tracker has now dovetailed into the national seed tracker.
Currently, with its new e-certification from registration, field certification to accreditation of seed companies, it goes through the portal of the national seed tracker.
There’s also a new programme which was allowed by the passage of the new seed act, known as third party registration.
The third party registration was a means of finding a way of doing the job of field certification more efficiently.
The third party certification is a process whereby licensed agents are given the authority to certify seeds while NASC does the auditing.
BASICS started the pilot and already 18 prospective agents have been identified and awaiting training after the formalisation of standardisation of the protocols.
Formally, NASC had no standard for Early Generation Seeds (EGS) in cassava, but with the advent of BASICS, there’s now a technology on board called semi autotrophic hydroponics.
This enables cassava seeds to be multiplied rapidly from cottons and the BASICS project has also developed standards to certify labs that are producing cassava cottons.
BASIC has five partners: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, FERA Science in the United Kingdom, NASC and Context Agro.