Cassava plays a central role in food security and economic activity in East Africa. However, production is suppressed by the two viral diseases, cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease; the latter now reaching epidemic proportions. The Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project is committed to developing two GM cassava products for deli very to small landholder farmers by 2018. GM products are well established in North America and adopted elsewhere, but release of a vegetatively propagated GM food product has not been undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa. VIRCA offers a unique platform to study hurdles to, and social and economic impact of deploying a GM product to subsistence farmers that is designed to address their specific needs. Farmer groups will be selected and through on-farm trials and surveys, farmer attitudes to adoption of virus resistant GM cassava will be determined. Information gathered will be employed to develop crop variety demand models and perform ex-ante impact analysis for deployment of the GM cassava. This study will be a first-of-its-kind effort to understand factors driving adoption of a GM crop in these environments, generating valuable knowledge concerning potential impact of GM staple crops on small landholders in sub-Saharan Africa. The proposed study will determine if significant hurdles to deployment of virus resistant GM cassava exist and illuminate how these might be overcome. Although performed using cassava, principles employed will apply to other vegetatively propagated staples such as plantain/cooking banana and sweetpotato. Knowledge gained will provide insight into the potential of GM technology to contribute to future food production in developing regions. Additionally, funding agencies, governmental organizations and technology developers with have access to information needed to better structure GM crop development and deployment projects targeted to small landholders in regions such as East Africa.
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