DG concludes successful visit with partners and private sector in Japan

Picture of Dr and Mrs Sanginga wearing the traditional  Japanese kimono
Dr and Mrs Sanginga wearing the traditional
Japanese kimono, Kyoto, Japan

Last week, Director General Nteranya Sanginga was in Japan to visit partner institutions and potential partners to explore new areas of collaboration. His week-long itinerary, 5-11 April, included visits to the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) in Tsukuba; Kyoto University in Kyoto; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Tokyo University of Agriculture (TUA) in Tokyo. On the final day he met with representatives of the private sector.

At JIRCAS, he was welcomed by the Management led by its President, Dr Masaru Iwanaga, former IITA Board member and Director General of CIMMYT. Dr Iwanaga had visited IITA last February. Sanginga made a presentation on “IITA: the leading research partner in Africa; Repositioning IITA for impact in Africa”. Sanginga and Iwanaga discussed further collaboration between JIRCAS and other universities and research centers in Japan.

At NIAS, Sanginga was welcomed by its President Dr H. Hirochika and visited the lab of the Anhydrobiosis Research Group working on the sleeping chironomid (Polypedilum vanderplanki) living in the semiarid regions of Africa.

At Kyoto University, which has a strong research ongoing in Kahuzi biega near Kalambo in DR Congo, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was discussed. The university wants to establish a liaison office in Africa and this could possibly be hosted in one of IITA’s Hubs. With the new MoU, IITA would be able to work with 9 faculties, 19 graduate schools, and the 22,000 students of the university.

Picture of DG Sanginga meets with the president of Kyoto University, Japan
DG Sanginga (rightmost) meets with the president of Kyoto University, Japan

At TUA, the possibility was explored of working with IITA on other crops. TUA has seven IITA alumni among its professors and advanced research on yam is ongoing with IITA. It was agreed that new students would be posted to IITA this year.

The visits to the two universities not only enhanced collaboration but also provided an opportunity for Sanginga to introduce IITA to young students.

At MAFF and MoFA, the funding on cowpea and yam work was confirmed and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), a conference held every five years, was discussed. TICAD VI will be organized in 2016, possibly in Nairobi, and will concentrate on the agro-food system. TICAD aims to “promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners.” IITA has been invited to organize a side event with JIRCAS.

This is the first time that IITA has engaged with JICA, one of the biggest dissemination agencies in Japan. The Director General will visit IITA this year, possibly around July. A new collaboration with JICA is expected to enable us to deliver our results to farmers more efficiently.

The last day of the visit was devoted to a meeting with the Japanese private sector: 42 participants and representatives from 22 companies joined the meeting. Officers from JIRCAS, NIAS, MAFF, MoFA, JICA, the Embassy of Nigeria in Japan, and the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria also attended the meeting. After this meeting, many Japanese companies will be expected to collaborate and to participate in IITA’s projects via the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) not only in Ibadan but in the hubs in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and Lusaka.

Sanginga expressed his appreciation for the support to IITA from Japan, not only in terms of funding, but also in the various kinds of collaboration, the exchange of ideas, and development of human capacities, including scientists and students.

The visit was organized by our Japanese scientists, Drs Sato Muranaka (JIRCAS), Haruki Ishikawa, and Kanako Suzuki.

At the end of the visit, Sanginga said, “I think that our travel was a great success and will enhance further collaboration and capacity building between IITA and Japan.”

The SUN rises for maternal and child health in Zambia

In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, governments and communities are adopting innovations that improve the lives of millions through better agricultural production to diversify household diets and enhance nutritional status especially of poor subsistence-based farming households. In Zambia, IITA is helping bring this about by introducing farm families to technologies that give them more crop-based choices to improve their health and nutrition.

SUN farmers in an orange maize demo site in Mansa, Northern Province
SUN farmers in an orange maize demo site in Mansa, Northern Province

With a local partner, Development Aid from People to People (DAPP), IITA is implementing a nutrition-sensitive agriculture-based intervention. This is named SUN – or Scaling-up Nutrition: the first 1000 critical days from pregnancy until a child turns 2 years old. The SUN project aims to enhance the nutrition and health status of children under 2 years and pregnant or lactating women through increased  production of different crops, dietary diversification, and the consumption of these nutrient-rich  crops in poor smallholder farming communities in Luapula, Eastern, and Northern Provinces of Zambia.

Mrs Elizabeth Tembo (far left, holding her child) with other members of her community participating in the SUN project in in Kipara, Chipata, Eastern Province
Mrs Elizabeth Tembo (far left, holding her child) with other members of her community participating in the SUN project in in Kipara, Chipata, Eastern Province

The project is being supported by UK Aid, Irish Aid, the Government of Sweden, and the Zambian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

In an interview, Mrs Elizabeth Tembo, a project beneficiary and a mother who recently gave birth in Kapara, Chipata, in the Eastern Province of Zambia, said she was grateful to the SUN project from IITA/DAPP. She had learned a lot about improved farming practices that integrate high-yielding varieties of nutritious crops, such as cowpea, soybean, and legumes, as well as fruits and a variety of green, leafy vegetables. She also related how the project taught her how to prepare a variety of tasty dishes that use the crops she grows in her own field.

“My family really likes these dishes, and I know that they are good for them as well as for me and my baby since I am still breastfeeding him,” Mrs Tembo narrated.

Apart from growing and using the nutritious crops, Mrs Tembo also learned traditional pest control methods which she is applying on her field. She said she was teaching other women in her community about the things she has learned from the SUN project to help to reduce the high prevalence of malnutrition and stunting among children.

Farmers weeding soybean plots at a SUN demo site in Kasama, Northern Province
Farmers weeding soybean plots at a SUN demo site in Kasama, Northern Province

In Lundazi, Mrs Lyness Zimba says that the she has been regularly attending the weekly training given to women like her in her community by agricultural and health specialists working under the SUN project. “They teach us the basics of nutrition, the importance of feeding our children nutritious foods, and how to cultivate and use various nutrient-rich crops in our homesteads. The project also gave us cookery recipes that make use of the crops.”

“Apart from the obvious health benefits
of the crops being espoused by the
project, the simple act of gaining knowledge about nutrition for my family is empowering,” she added. “I will definitely continue to practice what I have learned even after the project, for my sake and the sake of my children.”

SUN participants in Kasama and Mansa in the Northern Province of the country also aired their appreciation of IITA/DAPP for bringing the project in their communities. They indicated that they had benefited a lot and would adopt the practices they had learned to reduce malnutrition and stunting in their families.

Mrs Lyness Zimba of Kapichila camp in Lundazi being interviewed by journalists about the benefits of the SUN project
Mrs Lyness Zimba of Kapichila camp in Lundazi being interviewed by journalists about the benefits of the SUN project

The SUN project continues to provide participating farmers in its project areas with training on improved agronomic practices, seed multiplication, the need for timely planting and weeding, cultivating diverse crops rich in protein and vitamin A, and the utilization and processing of the crops.
IITA and DAPP have also linked the farmers to other organizations that are training
them on improved crop storage and preservation.

Sierra Leone seeks to deepen ties with IITA

Sierra Leone is seeking to deepen the relationship with IITA as the country aims to boost its agricultural productivity to create wealth and jobs for the youth.

To achieve this objective, a delegation from the West African nation held a meeting with IITA in Ibadan, 5-8 April, to review past and present collaborative efforts, identify successes made and lessons learned. Discussions were also centered on exploring new areas that might be beneficial to the two parties in future.

Dr Joseph Kargbo, Director General of the Sierra Leonean Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), said IITA was a strategic partner to Sierra Leone’s agricultural transformation efforts. He stressed that the Institute’s contributions over the years had led to the development of human capital/ personnel most of who are currently contributing to the agricultural development of the country. In addition, technologies developed at IITA have been adapted to Sierra Leone’s conditions and released to farmers.

Kargbo, who took over from Dr Alfred Dixon (now IITA Head of Partnership Coordination Office), wanted to see a more prosperous country, producing food and adding value to it.

“For us to achieve our goals, we need to work with you more than ever before,” Kargbo said.

Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships & Capacity Development, welcomed the delegation and reiterated IITA’s commitment to working with Sierra Leone.

He pledged that ongoing initiatives would be strengthened and sought Sierra Leone’s cooperation, especially on the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP).

Dr Dashiell’s position was reechoed by Dr Robert Asiedu, the Director for West Africa, who commended the support from Sierra Leone especially for hosting the Institute’s station and for working together on WAAPP, SARD-SC, and other projects for the benefit of farmers.

Francis A. Sankoh, Director General, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), committed to work on areas of concerns raised with a view to ensuring that an extension was accommodated for the success of the WAAPP in particular.

Sankoh lauded IITA for the training of Sierra Leonean students, some of whom were on scholarships, adding that the initiative contributed to addressing the skills gap in the country.

Apart from Kargbo and Sankoh, other members of the delegation were Daniel Fornah, Project Development & Management Officer, SLARI; Prof
Alpha K. Lakoh from Njala University; and Sulaiman S. Sesay, Project Coordinator, WAAPP – SL.

Dr Dixon led the team on a tour of IITA. Places visited include the Yam Barn, cassava breeding and end users’ assessment center, Business Incubation Platform, IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), Genetic Resources Center, International House, and the Geospatial Laboratory.

The team was excited about the IYA program, particularly at the fish hatchery and ponds and soymilk processing unit where young men and women displayed their passion for agriculture.

DSC_1399 (Copy)They also expressed interest on the value addition of cassava, particularly confectionery, at I-House, the sharing of genetic resources, and technology transfer in the area of cassava processing at the Yam Barn.

WAAPP-Nigeria commends IITA on the inclusion of AIP to meet partnership goals

Professor Damian Chikwendu, WAAPP-Nigeria National Coordinator, has commended IITA for prominently featuring the dynamic Agricultural Innovation Platform (AIP), also known as the Cassava Platform, in channelling technologies to farmers and investors. He described the initiative as “more effective than other conventional systems.”

Prof Chikwendu also observed that, to a very large extent, the AIP which is based in Umuahia, Abia State, had been performing very well in the cassava value chain and had now been extended to eight other States in Nigeria. “The World Bank is very impressed by this extension outfit and I urge IITA to request additional funds as may be needed to foster an all-encompassing development for farmers.”

WAAPP-Nigeria has been engaging IITA since 2012 as a major partner in the implementation of regional projects on cassava, yam, and maize. When Dr Gbassey Tarawali, IITA’s Representative in Abuja, and Dr Beatrice Aighewi, IITA Yam Seed Systems Specialist, made a recent visit to the WAAPP Office in Abuja, Prof Chikwendu showed interest in continuing the ongoing projects and also in exploring new areas. To facilitate this, an interactive session between both organizations was held on 2 March where IITA scientists shared new ideas and made presentations on the final reports for the ongoing projects and proposals for a second phase.

New areas to be explored in the proposed second phase include an oil initiative, the involvement of the youth in agribusiness, and the use of aflasafe to combat aflatoxin contamination on maize fields. As a first step, Dr Kenton Dashiell, DDG-Partnerships and Capacity Development, has urged IITA scientists to prepare at least six proposals to this effect. He also enjoined the scientists to work with Dr Robert Asiedu, Director R4D, and Kristina Roing de Nowina, Proposal Development Coordinator, in carrying out this assignment.

National Learning Alliance prioritizes climate change policy action in Tanzania

A National Learning alliance was created
at the end of last year to facilitate the sharing of information, knowledge, and experiences as well as carrying out joint policy engagement action on climate change particularly in relation to food security in Tanzania. The Alliance has identified key priority areas to focus on and further developed an action plan to help meet its objectives.

Climate change actors from government and non government organizations present at the workshop. At centre (blue suit) a guest of Honor .Eng. Angelina Madete, Deputy Permanent Secretary at Vice President Office.
Climate change actors from government and non government organizations present at the workshop. At centre (blue suit) a guest of Honor .Eng. Angelina Madete, Deputy Permanent Secretary at Vice President Office.

The one-day workshop was held on 31 March in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. During the event, various case studies for policy engagement were presented and
discussed including on climate change financing mechanisms, institutional capacity needs and entry points for mainstr­eaming climate change adaptation into development planning, water use efficient technologies and approaches for climate, among others.

The learning alliance is sponsored by the Policy Action for Climate Change
Adaptation (PACCA)
project of the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of CGIAR and led by IITA. It is being implemented in both Uganda and Tanzania. In Tanzania, the project is coordinated by the Environmental Management Unit (EMU) of the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC) as well as the Vice President’s Office.

The project is being implemented in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Bioversity International, and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

Speaking at the meeting, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Vice President’s Office, Engr Angeline Madete, said the National Learning Alliance was an important platform to strengthen climatic change policy action in the country from national to local levels especially for developing climate resilient food systems.

She therefore urged all the actors in the Alliance to continue sharing their knowledge and experiences on policy action to support the farming community cope with climate change, to develop a climate change communication strategy as well as guidelines for monitoring and evaluation of initiatives addressing climate change in the country.

Perez Muchunguzi, a multistakeholder specialist with IITA based in Kampala, said the goal of the learning alliance was to bring together all the different climate change actors in the two countries (Uganda and Tanzania) to identify opportunities and policy gaps.

Muchunguzi said the Tanzania learning alliance, at its formation, had settled on four thematic areas to work on based on the major gaps and challenges identified in the country related to climate change and policy action. These are financial resources, capacity building, institutional arrangement and policy issues, and information sharing and knowledge management.

“By the end of the meeting, each of the four groups came up with action plans for policy engagement. They varied from short-term issues such as putting together a climate change adaptation database to developing climate change policy,” he said. “It is important for the groups to prioritize and start with doable actions so the Learning Alliance members can be motivated as we continue learning together.”

He added that one of the targets of the national learning alliance was to set up at least two district learning alliances to get closer to the farmers and to where policy implementation takes place. “This will enhance effective implementation of proposed policies at district level,” said Muchunguzi.

The selected districts for setting up District Learning Alliances are Lushoto and Kilosa in Tanzania.

The meeting was attended by members of the learning alliance drawn from climate change actors from central and local governments, national and international research organizations, civil society including farmers’ organizations, the private sector, and the media.

Preparing Uganda and Tanzania for future climate challenges through engagement and scenario-building

The Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project is building a more climate-responsive future with policy-makers in Tanzania and Uganda.

A targeted approach, with scientists working directly with policy-makers and smallholders finding solutions to agriculture and climate related issues, could be the key to scaling-up climate-smart farming. This is exactly what the Policy Action for Climate Change (PACCA) project, led by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is aiming for. The four-year climate project is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and  Food Security (CCAFS) Flagship on “Policies and Institutions for Climate-Resilient Food Systems”.

Testing policies against future socio-economic scenarios

By striking up collaboration with CCAFS Future Scenarios team, the PACCA project invited stakeholders to review the National Agriculture Policy and Mechanization Framework in Uganda as well as the new National Environment Policy in Tanzania, testing the policies against multiple, all highly potential scenarios for the two countries. The scenarios were used as a ‘crash test’ to make the policy frameworks more climate-sensitive and robust.

In mid-February participants came for two consecutive national workshops in Tanzania and Uganda. The stakeholders represented the Vice President’s Office, Prime Minister’s Office, and Ministry of Agriculture, of Livestock and Fisheries Development in Tanzania and in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

Read the whole story at: Preparing Uganda and Tanzania for future climate challenges through engagement and scenario-building| CCAFS: CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Watch Project Coordinator Edidah Ampaire talk about the PACCA project, who the team is working with and main challenges faced so far:

Creating future scenarios to inform new Tanzanian environmental policy

Tanzania launches policy action to contain climate change adversities on the economy

Tanzania, Uganda launch climate change pact

Policy Action: Uganda Agriculture Minister approves revisions on country’s National Seed Policy

Group photo of workshop participants
Group photo of workshop participants

The Policy Action for Crop Intensification (PASIC) project has made great progress in supporting Uganda in developing its National Food Policy after the revisions made on the country’s National Seed Strategy were approved by the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. The revisions will be submitted along with the National Seed Policy document to Uganda’s cabinet for review.

This is a great milestone for this project in which  IITA, Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are working closely with Uganda’s Agriculture ministry to set up policies and actions for sustainable agricultural intensification to boost the production of small-holder farmers

The National Seed Policy had been reviewed and validated at a Stakeholder’s meeting held last year. This had brought together key players in the sector from private seed companies, local seeds businesses, researchers, district officials, relevant ministries, and parliamentarians.

The seed strategy validation was followed up by further review of the regulations for agricultural chemical control in a process led by the Department of Crop Inspection and Certification of the Agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) in January, 2015. The specific agricultural chemical control regulations include the seed and plant control, pest control and pesticide application equipment regulations.

Director Okaasai opens workshop on the National Seed Strategy of Uganda
Director Okaasai opens workshop on the National Seed Strategy of Uganda

According to Pamela Pali, the PASIC project coordinator, “This is a great milestone for the project and the agriculture sector in the country; access and use of improved seeds by farmers are critical in boosting agriculture production under agriculture intensification.”

She said the seed supply system in Uganda was mostly led by the poorly regulated informal sector which had 80% of the share market; the formal sector taking up the other 20%.  “Currently we have around 20 seed companies that make  up the formal seed supply system that is regulated through the public regulatory system from seed production to certification. The informal seed system, on the other hand, has no organized seed production chain, and is heavily unregulated,” she said.

During the various discussions in the validation process for the National Seed Strategy, several issues were discussed such as the consequences of implementing a private sector led national seed industry and evidence to show how biodiversity will be protected and preserved – passionate issues for the advocacy bodies.

It was agreed that an autonomous body to regulate the seed sector should be established.  Although quality control was seen as the primarily the role of government, the formation of private sector partnership was advocated to encourage competitiveness and efficiency.

Stakeholder from  agricultural research institutions, NGOs  and Uganda’s parliament study the national Seed strategy with a facilitator
Stakeholder from agricultural research institutions, NGOs and Uganda’s parliament study the national Seed strategy with a facilitator

Other key areas agreed upon included the need to build capacity of Quality Declared Seed (QDS) producers – the seed policy has a target to have 20% of the seed as QDS being produced by the informal seed sector. In addition, the mechanisms for self-regulation and internal quality management mechanisms among seed actors were to be strengthened and seed companies to provide extension services beyond the demonstration fields and they, as well as the seed traders, should have at least a seed technologist or technician amongst their staff.

The PASIC project is not only engaged in policy action for policies relevant to crop intensification such as the seed, fertilizer policy and extension; is also conducting research to analyse the bottlenecks in these policies.  This component is led by the by EPRC. From the stakeholder perspective, IITA is conducting research on the engagement of stakeholders in the policy processes. This research includes the analysis of the influence of policy processes and the dis/connect of actors on sustainable crop intensification in Uganda at national, district, and local levels and consideration of gender at these levels.

PASIC has also been collaborating with other projects such as USAID’s Enabling Environment in Agriculture (EEA) – agricultural inputs activity and the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) to contribute to the project’s efforts to create a favorable policy environment towards intensification of agriculture in the country.

Video:  EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE FAKE SEEDS

Starting a cassava revolution in East and Southern Africa

This video documents the activities of phases one and two of a project whose objective was to promote small-scale processing of cassava as a way of contributing to food security, increasing the income and improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers, creating jobs, and contributing to overall economic development.

Using a value-chain approach to identify and tackle the many challenges from production to marketing of the final products, the project saw the processing of cassava in East and Southern Africa move from rudimentary and traditional with products of poor quality mostly for home use to becoming mechanized with high-quality products for sale in urban supermarkets and industrial use.

The project, “Small-scale cassava processing and vertical integration of the cassava sub-sector in East and Southern Africa”, which ran for a total of eight years and came to an end in 2014, was funded by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). It was implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with national partners in five countries: the National Center of Applied Research and Rural Development (FOFIFA) of Madagascar; the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute; the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda; the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC), and the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM).

Video overview

Why Cassava?

Fresh cassava roots
Fresh cassava roots

Cassava found its way into Africa over 400 years ago through Portuguese explorers and traders alongside maize, sweet potato, and groundnut. Today, it is an important staple in many countries in the continent. However, in many countries cassava lags behind maize in importance. Moreover, it is a versatile crop that performs relatively well on poor soils, with low rainfall and little inputs such as fertilizer compared to most crops. Therefore, for years, communities have banked on it in times of drought or famine. The roots are also a rich source of carbohydrates and starch which can be processed into raw material for industrial use. However, the main disadvantage is its bulky roots which are difficult to transport and store―they start going bad after two days.

Phase one: Introducing better cassava processing methods and equipment

Most of the communities growing cassava have been processing it in one way or another to extend the shelf life and to eliminate cyanide, a toxic compound released from certain types of cassava when they are not properly processed. Processing involved drying the roots on the floor or roof tops or soaking them in pits for several days before drying, and milling into flour. The products from traditional processing were often unsafe and of poor quality.

Traditional processing of cassava.
Traditional processing of cassava.

Training farmers and small-scale processors: The first phase of the project, therefore, according to Dr Adebayo Abass, IITA value chain specialist and the project coordinator, was to introduce better processing methods and simple energy-efficient and labor-saving equipment such as chippers, graters, and dewatering machines to smallholder farmers and processors.

The project, working with local government extension agents and other local institutions, mobilized the farmers into groups and trained them on mechanical processing of cassava into high-value marketable products such as dried cassava chips, high quality cassava flour (HQCF), and starch for use in homes and industries.

Fabrication of machines: The project also introduced prototype machine designs and worked to build the capacities of machine fabricators to ensure the machines were locally available in the five countries. One of the trainees was Peter Chisawilo from Intermech Engineering Ltd in Tanzania, that went ahead to manufacture hundreds of these equipment that were sold to processors in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda.. In collaboration with the project, many other equipment fabricators from DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, etc, were trained.

Mzee Omari Musa from Sululu Farmers Group in Rufiji, South Tanzania, is one of the farmers involved in the project. He says his life and that of his fellow group members is now much better as a result of processing cassava using the modern equipment.

Cassava processing equipment: a grater and a dewatering machine.
Cassava processing equipment: a grater and a dewatering machine.

Finding markets: The project further tested  the starch and the flour produced by the smallholder farmers with potential end-user industries to find out if they were acceptable substitutes for imported raw materials. In Zambia, Tanzania, and Madagascar, HQCF was found to be an acceptable substitute to imported wheat in the bakeries for making bread and biscuits, and for making paper.

Bakefood International in Tanzania, for example, found that blending HQCF and wheat flour improved the texture of cookies and wafers. The company was exporting the wheat-cassava biscuits to Sudan. The company was therefore willing to buy 50 t of the flour per month from the processors―this requires 200 t of fresh cassava roots to be processed every month. The processing groups in Tanzania were linked to the company so they could supply the flour.  However the farmers were not able to supply the factory at the required quality and quantity of flour regularly to the disappointment of the proprietor, Mr Satya.

The same happened in Zambia and Madagascar. Investigation by the project showed that several factors contributed to the constraint. The most important was the inability of the smallholder, semi-mechanized processors to dry the cassava quickly to maintain quality and increase turn-over of products. Drying, a critical step in processing the flour relied on sun-drying. This was a major challenge in the processing of HQCF. The processors spread the grated cassava in the sun to dry before milling it and this limited processing during the rainy season. This led to phase two of the project.

Phase two: Introducing mechanical drying technologies and a two-step supply chain

Phase two looked into some of the hurdles faced by the processors in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Zambia in supplying HQCF to the industries in the required quality and quantity.

Searching for alternatives to sun drying: mechanical drying

Solar dying of grated and chipped cassava
Solar dying of grated cassava

The project explored existing drying technologies and settled on the use of the pneumatic drying technique using flash dryers. Due to their high cost and drying capacity,  it was not practical to have all the small-scale processors install the dryers and the project therefore developed a two-step processing procedure.

A flash drier at Ukaya farm, Tanzania

At the village level, several small-scale processors bought cassava from farmers, peeled, washed, and removed the water to form semi-dried grits which have a longer shelf life and are much easier to transport than fresh cassava. The grits are sold to a medium-scale processor with a mechanical dryer within the community who dries the grits and mills into flour to sell to industries and urban consumers.

Basilisa Minja, Secretary of Umoja group in Mtwara region in Tanzania, praised the two-step production process as it removed the headache of sun-drying and they were able to process cassava during both rainy and dry seasons.

Amfrad Magula, the manager at Procepres Enterprises Ltd in Northern Zambia, where a flash dryer is being used, says the dryer has led to a great improvement in the quality of the flour they are producing and selling to industries in Lusaka, Zambia.

Improving cassava varieties: The project in both its first and second phases worked with cassava breeders from IITA and national research centers to give farmers improved varieties to increase productivity. This was particularly important as many of the varieties the farmers were growing were susceptible to the two viral diseases spreading through East and Southern Africa and leaving behind a wave of destruction: cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease.

Saving the forest in Madagascar: The project also installed a flour processing unit in a starch making factory in Marovitsika, Madagascar. The firm which was set up in 1945 was no longer manufacturing starch. The several communities whose livelihoods depended on the starch factory for many years resorted to felling the trees in the forest that was developed for decades by the starch factory. However, it has now started production of cassava flour which according to the manager, Robinson David Alexander, is proceeding rather well. This in turn, it is hoped, will reduce the destruction of the forest.

Attracting investors: The project has also attracted investors interested in setting up firms to process cassava starch. Such investors included Mr Shabir Zaveri from Tanzania who intends to construct a cassava starch making factory in his 200 acre Nyambiri farm in Rufiji, Coast Region.

Partnerships to develop standards for cassava products: The project collaborated with regional and national food regulatory institutions in the East and Central Africa to develop harmonized standards for cassava starch, flour, and other cassava products. Trainings of the cassava processors were done to increase their capacity to produce standard products that comply with the harmonized standards. The purpose was to increase regional trade in cassava and make the crop a tradable commodity in the East, Central, and Southern Africa.

Training processors on standards for cassava products.
Training processors on standards for cassava products.

The end of the beginning: While the CFC project has come to an end, it has made a lot of progress in the push to commercialize cassava in East and Southern Africa. It has created awareness on the diverse and unexploited market opportunity for cassava and in turn sparked interest in many individuals to set up cassava processing ventures. Many lessons have also been learned and no doubt, the project has laid a firm foundation for a cassava processing revolution that will increase the income of smallholder farmers and processors, create jobs, save foreign change expenditure, and contribute to economic development.