Ghana fetes farmers in a Farmers’ Day

IITA participated in celebrating and acknowledging the contributions of local farmers in Ghana last December.

The National Farmers Day is a day of celebration and appreciation of the good work by the farmers and awarding of gifts to the farmers. This is celebrated every first Friday of December each year and includes fisherfolk and all farmers.

Cassava Breeder Elizabeth Parkes attending to farmers and guests at the IITA stand.
Cassava Breeder Elizabeth Parkes attending to farmers and guests at the IITA stand.

The celebration is coordinated by the Finance and Administration Subcommittee of the Municipal Assembly of the Municipal Director of Food and Agriculture (Charles Atse), which includes the Municipal Budget Officer, Deputy Municipal Coordinating Director, the Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the Municipal Assembly, and the Chief Farmer of Suhum.

The farmers’ day took place at Aponoapono, a large village in Suhum town. Both men and women farmers participated in the celebration.

The event was graced by award winners, farmers, a team from IITA led by Elizabeth Parkes, Janet Nkurumah-Sey, Olaniyi Oluwatobi, and Anthony Acquatey-Mensah. There were also traditional rulers from Aponoapono and neighboring villages. The Municipal Chief Executive, the Municipal Coordinating Director, the Municipal Commander of Police, some Heads of Departments, general public, and members of the press also attended.

IITA mounted an exhibition led by the Cassava Breeding unit that showed vitamin A cassava, high quality cassava flour, and IITA publications and posters. The cassava variety had the largest roots on a single stem exhibited during the occasion and attracted a lot of visitors. The farmers, the community chief, and the Commander of Police showed interested in this variety.

IFAD/ IITA/HQCF value chain project organizes farmers’ field day…and provides Kwara farmers with a weeding machine

The IFAD/IITA HQCF Value chain project organized a field day at Ijoga-Orile on 8 December 2015, bringing together HQCF master bakers, extension agents, farmers, financial institutions, input suppliers, local machine fabricators, marketers, nutritionists, processors, researchers, transporters, youth, and students. The event was hosted by project partner Open Door International Ltd.

More than 120 project and non-project farmers participated in the field day. The field day aimed to allow project farmers and non-project farmers to participate and witness the harvesting of the demo farm planted at Ijoga-Orile; bring together all actors in the value chain at Ijoga-Orile and foster a business-oriented sustainable platform; and finally say thank you to the community for welcoming the project and Open Door to Ijoga-Orile.

“The result of profitable cassava production is what we are witnessing today,” said Alhaji Aderemi Mohammed, CEO and Director of Open Door International, who encouraged other farmers within the environs of Ijoga-Orile to work with the project and his processing factory. He said he is ready to procure all cassava roots that the farmers produce.

Various farm inputs were on display, such as herbicides and improved cassava stems; also 10% HQCF/wheat bread was given to participants.

Gregory Nwaoliwe of HQCF Project gives 10% HQCF–wheat bread to participants during the field day.
Gregory Nwaoliwe of HQCF Project gives 10% HQCF–wheat bread to participants during the field day.

During the feedback session, community representatives called for more field days and expressed thanks to IITA for introducing a cassava variety that was able to withstand the dry season conditions and produce a bumper harvest, which they witnessed. One of the youth and a project beneficiary, who spoke on behalf of the other youths, appreciated the effort of the Project for the training they acquired on mechanical planting, farm management, and weed control.

Kehinde Adegbola, a non-project farmer, expressed his surprise at the cassava varieties the project introduced and the bountiful yield. He said he wondered if cassava can be easily harvested irrespective of the dry season. “I can say categorically that the cassava business has been made easy and is now more profitable than before.”

The IFAD/IITA/HQCF Value Chain Project Coordinator, Alenkhe Bamidele, in his closing remarks thanked the community for their warm acceptance of the project and advised all participants to take advantage of all the useful products that the project had introduced within the 12 months of working in Ijoga-Orile. He also urged all actors along the value chain to work together, exploiting existing business opportunities that can be generated within the platform as members of the Ijoga-Orile innovation platform.

…Young cassava farmers and outgrowers of Arogunjo Farm Limited, in Kwara State, Nigeria, were given a cassava weeding machine last December 2015 to ease the back-breaking work of removing weeds from their fields. The machine was donated by the IFAD/IITA High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) Project in collaboration with the IITA Cassava Weed management project.

During the presentation of the machine, over 20 youths and outgrowers including women, were trained were trained on how to use the machine. Bamidele Alenkhe, IFAD/IITA HQCF Project coordinator, advised the youth to maintain the machine properly and also tasked the recipients to appoint a custodian of the machine.

The training highlighted the efficiency, maintenance, and guidelines in the use of the weeder to avoid destroying cassava stems. IITA weed management technician Uchenna Ifeanyi Ene skillfully demonstrated the use of the weeder to uproot the weeds without harming the cassava, and let the training participants try using the machine.

IITA’s Uchenna Ene demonstrates the use of the cassava weeding machine to training participants.
IITA’s Uchenna Ene demonstrates the use of the cassava weeding machine to training participants.

The participants expressed awe at seeing such a machine that could remove weeds growing between cassava plants.

Abdul-Rasaque Alabi, one of the youths, said that the machine was easy to handle. “This machine is very easy to use. If I have the opportunity of buying one, I can plant more cassava on my farm and get very good yields at harvest time, because I know from experience that weeds disturb the root quality of our cassava.”

Another youth, Sadu Jimoh, said that IITA should provide more machines and create further awareness about the weeder because it makes farming easier for the farmers. “If farmers like me can be given this machine for free, and combined with the training that IITA has given me on land preparation and the use of improved cassava varieties, then my productivity will increase year in, year out.

The training and demonstration did not hinder women from participating, Catherine Imola and Mariam Olaoye also tried their hand using the machine. After the demonstration Imola said “I like the machine. I handled it easily, without stress; with this women’s participation in farming will increase and and we will not wait for men to help us uproot weeds in our farm again.” On the other hand, Olaoye said the machine was a little heavy for her to handle. “Manufacturers should make provision for smaller or lighter machines. If I see something that is a little smaller; I will be fine with it,” she said.

IITA’s business model for cassava in Cameroon presented as case study at the Burundi Economic and Social Development Forum

Dr Emmanuel Njukwe, Country Representative, IITA Burundi, was a guest speaker at the Burundi Economic and Social Development Forum held at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, Bujumbura, on 23 April. The Forum was organized by Burundi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was chaired by Burundi’s First Vice President.

At the event which was attended by European Ambassadors, donor organizations, and NGOs, Dr Njukwe presented on IITA’s Business Model for Cassava, made a case for a reform in Africa’s cassava processing, and projected the efforts of IITA in this regard.

Dr Njukwe highlighted the multiple uses of the crop, noting that cassava remains important in sub-Saharan Africa for food security and income generation and also serves as a major food crop for many in Burundi.

“Cassava has great potentials as a source of starch and as feed for livestock. It is a high-yielding crop that is tolerant of poor soils and produces more under good management. Its production can, however, be hampered as it is bulky, highly susceptible to pests and diseases, and has a short shelf life that requires immediate processing after harvest,” said Dr Njukwe.

He noted that IITA’s business model for cassava was already bridging the gap between urban and rural processors and helping farmers and processors in Cameroon to reach international markets in Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville and other domestic markets as well.

“The main objective of the business model is to assess the viability of centralizing factories for processing high quality cassava flour (HQCF) in the urban centers while primary processing of dried cassava chips is decentralized and sourced at village levels in the rural areas.”

He added, “This business model aims at reducing postharvest losses and creating jobs for the youth and women in rural areas. To achieve success, a holistic and comprehensive approach in R4D is necessary that considers and addresses production, processing, and marketing challenges simultaneously and involves various stakeholders, such as farmers, development partners, policymakers, the private sector, and researchers.”

Explaining the process further, he noted that various activities are undertaken to build capacity of the end-users such as training on crop management, machine use, product development, and fabrication for the private sector. Top policymakers are involved in the process during the release of IITA cassava varieties and the events to promote the use of cassava flour in bakery products.

The Government of Burundi is now partnering with IITA to reproduce these benefits for its citizens. As a symbol of commitment IITA has been asked to develop a similar business model for banana and to sign a four-year memorandum of understanding with Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Burundi (2015 to 2018) for the implementation of both business models (cassava and banana) with support from the Netherlands Government.

Forum panelists including IITA’s Dr Emmanuel Njukwe on the far left.
Forum panelists including IITA’s Dr Emmanuel Njukwe on the far left.

Workshop held to discuss options for building an economically sustainable and integrated cassava seed system in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the world’s largest cassava producer, a proposed project, the first of its kind, will develop an economically sustainable seed system for cassava that can grow and supply farmers with new varieties. This was the focus of a discussion among stakeholders from the private and public sectors, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), the National Agricultural Seed Council, research institutes and scientists that was held at the IITA Conference Center in Ibadan, 27-28 April.

Dr Clair Hershey, leader of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) cassava program, explained that for cassava, the word seed refers to the “small stem cuttings used to propagate the crop each growing season.” He added, “The seed system starts from plants in tissue culture in the laboratory to the production of breeder seeds which will then be multiplied to produce foundation seeds and finally to be multiplied by commercial seed producers for farmers to get good quality seeds of their preferred varieties.”

Dr Elizabeth Parkes and Dr Peter Kulakow show a range of finished products from both the white and yellow-fleshed cassava varieties to workshop participants during a field tour.
Dr Elizabeth Parkes and Dr Peter Kulakow show a range of finished products from both the white and yellow-fleshed cassava varieties to workshop participants during a field tour.

Currently, the seed system is a big constraint to farmers and industries in getting the varieties they need. Developing the seed system became necessary in the light of the “various opportunities being missed in reaching out to small- and large-scale cassava farmers, the distribution of new genetic materials, and improvement of the crop across the entire value chain.” said Dr Claude Fauquet, Director of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century.

“Today,” continued Dr Fauquet, “there are no commercial seed systems available in the world for cassava. No one is currently able to go to designated spots and purchase cassava stem cuttings if s/he desires to establish a new business. It simply does not exist.”

This project therefore seeks to address this challenge by establishing a sustainable mechanism to ensure that both commercial and small-scale farmers and industries continuously pay the correct price to buy and have access to quality, certified seeds of the right varieties to improve their production.

The project will be championed under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and focus will be on major cassava-growing regions of Nigeria.

Dr Peter Kulakow (in front, wearing a hat) talks about the field operations and breeding procedures for the cassava seed system.
Dr Peter Kulakow (in front, wearing a hat) talks about the field operations and breeding procedures for the cassava seed system.

Farmers will get better income and higher yields from the initiative, but they will not be the only participants. Cassava processors will also be able to grow their businesses and gain access to higher yielding varieties as raw materials for their products through the seed system.

“People will make money all along the value chain,” said Dr Graham Thiele, Director, CGIAR RTB Program. He continued, “Our vision for the future is to unleash the entrepreneurial potentials of Nigerians and make this a functioning initiative for producers, processors, and consumers of cassava in Nigeria.”

The proposed project will be led by RTB with major project roles for NRCRI, CIAT, CIRAD, contact network IITA, and other partners, in collaboration with Bioversity International, CIAT, and CIP. Funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will drive the initiative which will start in 2016.

Upon implementation, lessons from this initiative will be exported to benefit other African countries and Asia as well.

Scientists and development partners spot agronomy as a remedy for Africa’s cassava production problem …as they prepare a new initiative on cassava agronomy

IITA scientists, in collaboration with national partner institutes and development partners, are gathering to define which agronomic practices could narrow the cassava yield gap and how these can be scaled up to many farmers in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda in a new initiative, African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI). This is planned to commence in 2016. ACAI aims to take cassava to scale in cassava-based systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Upon implementation, ACAI will be driven mainly by implementing partners and focus on the agronomy requirements of cassava fields and integrating best practices for other management objectives.

According to FAO figures in 2011, Africa produces more cassava than any other crop.  More land is cultivated to the crop but the yields are low, with current estimates ranging between 8 and 15 t/ha against an achievable yield of more than 30 t/ha.

Dr Bernard Vanlauwe (right) talks about the ACAI project to partners.
Dr Bernard Vanlauwe (right) talks about the ACAI project to partners.

“Agronomy includes many things,” Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA  Director for Central Africa, said during the Cassava Agronomy Stakeholders’ Meeting on 28 April-1 May in Ibadan. “In this initiative, we are asking development partners that are engaged in cassava value chain activities to tell us which agronomy information they would need to improve their work; that’s what ACAI will work on.

Dr Vanlauwe, in one of the first studies to examine the potential of combining inorganic fertilizer and good agronomy practices on cassava fields in DR Congo, found that the combination could give high yields while also allowing farmers to cultivate cassava with other crops, such as nutritious beans and soybean, on the same plot and at the same time.

“The results from Uganda and DR Congo show that by training farmers to know the specific needs of the cassava variety on their farm lands and also to diagnose nutrient requirements properly on their fields, farmers can have much better harvests,” said Dr Vanlauwe.

Dr Vanlauwe also explained that ACAI will tackle four key challenges for cassava intensification:

Empowering farmers with appropriate cassava agronomy information on cassava;

Collecting the necessary strategic information in relation to cassava growth and nutrient needs;

Empowering last-mile delivery agents to make decisions, obtain information, and use these within their networks;

Developing geo-spatial recommendations to close yield gaps; and Integrating national systems and engaging them in innovative cassava agronomy aimed at reaching scale.

ACAI intends to partner with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, the International Fertilizer Development Center, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, National Root Crops Research Institute, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute, SG2000, 2Scale-Psaltry, CAVA-II, Farm Concern International, Minjingu Fertilizer Company, Notore, and many others.

Program to attract Africa’s youth to agriculture launched in Kenya

An IITA project seeking to entice the educated youth to go into agriculture and agribusiness was established in Makueni County in Kenya, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi and Makueni County Government and officially launched on 10 March.

The Makueni Youth Agripreneurs (MYA) project, based at the University of Nairobi, Kibwezi station, brings together university graduates in the region from diverse backgrounds. They will be trained on modern farming methods, processing of and value addition to agricultural produce, and entrepreneurship. The project will be replicated in other parts of the country to engage more of the youth in agriculture and contribute to reducing the country’s high unemployment rate.

The initiative is part of a larger program called IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), started three years ago in Nigeria by Dr Nteranya  Sanginga, IITA’s Director General. This program aims to tackle the twin challenges of youth unemployment and the need to increase agricultural production to supply food for a rapidly increasing population.

Group photo of youth “agripreneurs” and guests during the MYA launch.
Group photo of youth “agripreneurs” and guests during the MYA launch.

The Makueni project was officially launched at an event at the IITA-Kenya offices at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe).by Oscar Musembi Marco, Kibwezi West Sub-County Administrator, on behalf of the Makueni County Governor Prof. Kivutha Kibwana and its Deputy Governor, Hon. Adelina Ndeto Mwau.

Mr Marco lauded the initiative, saying it was much needed in the Makueni County in its current efforts to transform itself and become self-reliant on food. “Through this youth program we are on the right path to transform Makueni County from being food insecure to becoming a breadbasket of the country,” he said, “and change the youth in Makueni from being job seekers to job creators.”

He added that the Makueni County government had set aside Kshs 25 million (US$277,330) to give low interest loans to young people, women, and those with disabilities. He urged the youth to take advantage of this incentive.

Dr Sanginga, who was also at the event, said Makueni County had been selected so the youth could support the Institute’s efforts in providing a solution to  aflatoxins―those deadly chemicals produced by molds which attack maize and other grains―as the area was one of the hotspots for the problem in the country.

“IITA is setting up a factory to produce aflasafe, a biological control solution to aflatoxins. The technology requires sorghum to be used as a carrier. The youth will produce and supply the factory with sorghum,” he said. “They will create employment and, at the same time, produce a great public good for the people of Makueni.”

He further added that the program was a start and would be replicated throughout the country; members of the group would be involved in outreach and the training of other young men and women.

He said that the IYA program had received much support from donor agencies and was well on track to reach its target to spread the program to 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Prof Geoffrey Kironchi from the University of Nairobi, one of the collaborators in the project, said the University had donated part of its 1200 acres of land and greenhouses at its Kibwezi station to MYA to grow vegetables through irrigation as a start-off activity. He added that the project, bringing together those from different backgrounds, could be instrumental in attracting the youth to agriculture.

“Our youth are not attracted to agriculture yet there are a lot of opportunities in the sector. We all have to eat every day. There is also a lot of food wasted and uneven distribution. While some parts of the country have an abundant food supply all year, others are constantly faced with famine and starvation.” 

This was echoed by Prof Nancy Karanja also from the University of Nairobi. She said the University was fully committed to the project and its endeavor to create youth employment. “It’s very disheartening to us as teachers and parents when we find our students loitering around after graduation because there are no jobs,” she said. “And on the other hand as a country, we can only talk of development once we are able to feed ourselves.”

Others at the event were Dr Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa; Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA Director for Central Africa; Dr Kristina Roing De Nowina, MYA Project Manager, representatives of IYA from Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, and representatives from other partner institutions.

Genetic linkage map of cassava published in G3

A high-resolution linkage map and chromosome scale-genome assembly for cassava created by a group of international researchers, including some from IITA, has been published in G3 Genes Genomes Genetics and highlighted by the Genetics Society of America (

The linkage map was generated by combining 10 genetic maps from 14 diverse parents from African cassava breeding projects including those of IITA in East Africa and Nigeria. It was a collaborative effort among IITA, the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) of Tanzania, National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, National Root Crops Research Institute  (NRCRI) in Nigeria, and the University of Berkeley/ Joint Genome Institute, USA.

It was accomplished through two collaborative projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one administered by IITA which focuses on the development of mapping populations, and the other by the University of Arizona that focuses on improving the cassava genome sequence.

According to Dr Morag Ferguson, IITA’s Cassava Molecular Geneticist, the maps have allowed the aligning of DNA sequence fragments into larger fragments or scaffolds, so that now 90% of the cassava genome assembly is contained in only 30 large fragments, whereas previously it was made up of approximately 13,000 pieces.

Cassava heap.
Cassava heap.

“This will be a valuable tool in a number of research areas from diversity assessments to functional genomics. It will ultimately assist researchers to efficiently identify and use genetic variation for improved productivity, disease resistance, and enhanced nutrition, and to develop varieties for industrial processing among other applications,” she said.

This is good news for small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa where currently the crop’s production is seriously threatened by two viral diseases, cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease.

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.

Project seeks to diversify cassava food recipes in Zanzibar

Peeling the cassava in readiness to make cassava pilao
Peeling the cassava in readiness to make cassava pilao

While cassava is among the most important crops in the isle of Zanzibar, Tanzania, where it is ranked second to rice, the residents consume it in very limited and not so exciting ways. It is boiled or fried with oil and eaten as a snack /breakfast or stewed in coconut milk for lunch or dinner.  This in turn limits the demand and market for the crop.

The Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project which is promoting the production of the crop is also working on diversifying the methods of cooking and consuming cassava, introducing more exciting recipes.

Recently, the project in collaboration with one of its partner in the isle, Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), held training for farmers, processors and traders on preparing additional food recipes using cassava. These included making cakes, bans, spicy porridge and chin chin – a snack made of fried stringy cassava (sort of like fried cassava spaghetti). These were made from high quality cassava flour (HQCF) – on its own or mixed with wheat flour. They also made chicken cassava pilau in which peeled cassava that’s cut into little pieces substituted rice in this popular dish.

The SARD-SC project seeks to increase food security and improve the income and living standards of small-holder farmers in  20 African countries, including  Tanzania, by increasing the production of four important staple crops – maize, wheat, cassava and rice. It is funded by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).

SARD-SC demonstrates improved cassava farming practices to spur production in Kigoma, Tanzania

Dr Habaye explain to the farmers the on-going agronomy trials to farmers during the field day.
Dr Habaye explaining to the farmers the on-going agronomy trials to farmers during the field day.

The Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project led by the International of Institute Tropical Agriculture (IITA) held a successful one-day farmers field day to demonstrate the improved cassava production technologies it was piloting to increase the crop’s productivity while at the same time conserving and maintaining soil fertility.

The event also enabled the project to get feedback from the farmers on the technologies that they preferred and which they would readily adopt to enhance productivity of cassava in the region to improve food and nutritional security and contribute to poverty reduction.

The technologies demonstrated at the event, held on 27 February 2014 at Kakonko District, Kigoma Region, in Tanzania, included intercropping and the use of fertilizers and new improved varieties.

??????????Dr Mboyi Mugendi, a Zonal Research Director at the Lake Zone Agricultural Research and Development Institute (LZARDI) hailed the technologies being piloted by the SARD-SC project saying they had the potential to increase production of cassava, one of the region’s key staple crops, and contribute to efforts to improve food security and reduce poverty in the region.

“The improved cassava farming technologies being piloted by the project have the potential to significantly boost cassava production in this region and at the same time conserve soil fertility. However, the farmers will also need further training in order to adopt the new technologies being piloted,” said Dr Mugendi.

Dr.Mboyi Mgendi from LZARD,explaining on benefit of soil measure before application of any technologies to farmers.
Dr.Mboyi Mugendi from LZARD,explaining on benefit of soil measure before application of any technologies to farmers.

He added: “There is need to create awareness among the farmers on the importance of testing their soils so they can know the deficient minerals and the best crops to grow and fertilizers to use. They also need support in the testing.”

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) were identified as major challenges threatening production of cassava in the region. Dr Simon Jeremiah from LZARDI briefed the farmers on the two diseases, their symptoms, and the measures to take to stop their spread.

He also urged farmers to invest in the production of clean seeds and to change to the improved cassava varieties which are tolerant to the two diseases that the project will recommend from its trials.

Dr Jeremiah demonstrating symptoms of CMD and CBSD to farmers at Juma Maganga,(Cassva Mosaic and Brownstrak disease) at Kakonko district
Dr Jeremiah demonstrating symptoms of CMD and CBSD to farmers

Mr Christopher Briton Chugwa, Chairman of a farmers group in Kibondo District, said the farmers’ day was important as it exposed farmers to new technologies that had potential to increase yields to motivate them to improve their farming practices.

Miss Veronica Laurence, a farmer from Kiobela Village, said the improved varieties and farming practices being demonstrated by the project had better yields compared to the local varieties and local practices. However she added lack of financial resources was a major barrier to many farmers in adopting the new technologies.

Thanking the project on behalf of the Kakonko District Commissioner, Mrs Tausi Madebo, the Division Officer, said that the technologies demonstrated a lot of potential to boost cassava production. She encouraged farmers to form associations and work as a group to tap into the existing market opportunities for the crop in the area.

Women farmers keenly listening to the speakers during the field day

Participants at the event included farmers from Kakonko, Kiobela, and Kasanda villages, government officials, and staff from LZARD and IITA.

 The SARD-SC is a multinational project led by several CGIAR centers whose objective is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to reducing poverty in selected Regional Membership Countries (RMCs) in Africa. Funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), it focuses on raising the productivity and profitability of cassava, maize, rice, and wheat.

It is being implemented in Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.