Paul Ilona, country manager of HarvestPlus-Nigeria, has been appointed as chairman of the advisory committee for the Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2, (BASICS-II) project.
Ilona worked previously with breeders, particularly, Alfred Dixon in the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop several improved cassava varieties in Africa before joining HarvestPlus. There he has championed the dissemination of pro-vitamin A cassava (popularly called yellow cassava) to millions of farmers.
Farmers in Africa lack access to regular and dependable high- quality planting materials such as the newest and best varieties of cassava stems since agro-dealers don’t sell them, and free distributions by NGOs and government programs are sporadic and unreliable.
As a result, many cassava farmers resign themselves to replanting the older strains grown in their own fields, while others buy uncertified stems with questionable quality and unknown sources from informal markets.
The BASICS- II project was established to provide African farmers with access to affordable, disease-free seeds of cassava varieties that are in demand by local food and processor markets, with a special focus on Nigeria and Tanzania.
The cassava project led by the (IITA) in conjunction with other partners, is a joint effort to transform the cassava seed sector through the dissemination of improved varieties, all in hopes of forming a community of commercial seed entrepreneurs across the cassava value chain.
Ilona was unanimously selected for the position due to his work on cassava breeding and improvement, which earned him a national honor in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013., Following this work, one of the best varieties released in that country was named after him: the “Ilona” cassava variety (MV2007/126).
While giving his acceptance speech, Paul thanked the committee for the confidence accorded to him and pledged to work with and support the BASICS-II project in reaching its goal of creating a sustainable cassava seed system in Africa