Arriving in Lushoto through its steep winding road has always brought an interesting feeling. As you climb from the valley in Mombo, one observes that farmers are growing a number of crops in the valleys and between the hills, a sign of diversification on their farms. Signs of off-farm activities such as local trade are also visible.
It all seems okay but when you speak to the residents, they tell you that changes, largely negative, are already happening. Some of the most frequently mentioned changes include decline in crop production, increased soil erosion, declines in forest cover, rising temperatures, drying of rivers, decreasing water in the valleys and irregular rainfall patterns.
While it is the number one cash crop for most farmers in Tanzania, maize is getting a serious run for its money from legumes such as beans, groundnut, and soybean which are becoming commercial crops in the cool and hilly terrain of the Southern Highlands. In addition, legumes are also good for tackling malnutrition and soil infertility as they are a cheap source of protein and are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils.
This turn of events is being fueled firstly by many years of collaboration between farmers and Tanzanian and international research institutions, a range of development partners, and the private sector that has seen the development and dissemination of improved varieties and good agronomic practices enabling farmers to increase their legume yield by up to four times.
And secondly, a ready market within and in the neighboring countries of Zambia, DR Congo, Malawi, and as far down as South Africa.
On a recent visit to the region, we met a number of farmers whose fortunes have greatly changed and their livelihoods improved as a result of growing legumes.
Daudi Bukuku – from borrowing soap to a respectable bean expert
Daudi Bukuku, a charming 38-year-old farmer has seen his life turnaround from at one time not being able to afford to buy soap for his family to being able to purchase and install a biogas plant at his home reducing the drudgery and time spent by his wife looking for firewood. All thanks to beans.
“Before starting this improved farming of beans, I used to harvest 200 kg of beans from an acre. Life was hard and I was struggling to even buy soap for my family. However, everything changed when I was invited for a training at ARI Uyole on improved farming methods for beans and also received new, improved varieties to try,” Daudi says.
“I learned proper spacing, proper use of fertilizers, and how to harvest and store my crop. I applied everything I had learned and now my yield is up to 700 to 800 kg per acre. My life is so much better as you can see. I have even managed to buy livestock. I have cows, pigs, and chickens. I have also been able to install a biogas plant that converts the waste from my livestock into gas for cooking. I am no longer destroying the environment for firewood. And my wife now respects me as I have made her life easy. She is not struggling with cooking. In twenty minutes, all the food is ready,” he said.
Daudi’s farm acts as a demonstration site to transfer the technologies and knowledge he has gained from the researchers to the surrounding farmers who are inspired with what they see and by the changes he has made in his life. He has also been trained in the production of Quality Declared Seeds and therefore sells seeds of various local and improved varieties to surrounding farmers.
Empowering women and improving marriages
Upendo women’s group in Mchewe village in Mbeya rural district has also seen beans change their lives and their marriages for the better.
According to the chair of the group, Witness Sikayange, the women came together in 2010 to find ways to work together to improve their lives and those of their families through farming.
“We realized we can earn more money from beans compared to maize as we can harvest up to three times a year compared to once a year for maize. We then approached researchers and government extension workers for training on improved farming methods and for improved varieties. And after that, we started commercial farming of beans.
“We are now living a very comfortable life. We all have improved houses and are taking our children to school. And our marriages are even better. Before we used to have a lot of quarrels with our husbands but since we started making our own money, they now respect us as we are not just sitting begging for everything,” Witness said.
The group is also growing Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) for the various varieties of bean released from Uyole Agricultural Research Institute to sell to surrounding farmers and processing pre-cooked beans for sale.
Spreading the success
There are a number of ongoing research initiatives to build on to these successes to spread the benefits of legumes to more farmers: .
Building capacity of research institutes to develop new legume varieties: Efforts to provide farmers with better varieties are also continuing through the Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) project funded by the Gates Foundation and led by ICRISAT.
According to Emmanuel Monyo, the coordinator for this project, TLIII is seeking to improve the breeding capacity of national agricultural research systems and of three CG centers―CIAT, IITA, and ICRISAT to provide farmers with improved high yielding legume varieties to improve the production and productivity of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa And Asia. Its target is to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of smallholder farmers through increased legume production.
N2africa – adding soybean to the mix: The ‘Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa,’ project, in short N2Africa, led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands is promoting the production of soybean in the area and introducing the use of seed innoculants and improved farming methods such as higher density planting and use of appropriate fertilizers both organic, inorganic and bio-fertilizers.
According to Fred Baijukya, an agronomist at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub and N2Africa Country Coordinator for Tanzania, the project is currently conducting trials of new improved soybean varieties together with ARI-Uyole and lead farmers to identify the best-performing ones as well as have farmers preferred traits to recommend for release.
The project is also conducting agronomic trials looking into the best agronomic practices that will ensure the farmers get the highest returns including time of planting, spacing and use of fertilizers.
Dissemination of technologies: One challenge that faces research organizations is the wide-scale dissemination and scaling out of new technologies to reach many farmers. Two NGOs―One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion (FIPs)―are assisting in these efforts. FIPs is providing farmer with small packs of different inputs including seeds for improved varieties and fertilizers. For testing and adoption of those they like and also providing advice on good agronomic practices. FIPS also links farmers to the agro-dealers and private sector companies to ensure supply of the inputs.
One Acre Fund on the other hand is providing loans to farmers to purchase seeds and other inputs such as fertilizers for their farms and training them on better farming practices.
The two development partners are now keen to work with the research teams to help in the dissemination of new legume varieties released from research institutes as well as inputs such as rhizobium and legume fertilizers.
These successful cases show the clear link between research and development, says Jean Claude Rubyongo, a seed system specialist from CIAT and who is also one of the researchers who has been conducting research on bean in the country for many years parenting with ARI-Uyole.
If the successes achieved by Daudi and Upendo can be replicated throughout the region, then clearly the region will transform itself and make a big dent in the efforts to support the country to industrialize and reduce poverty and malnutrition.
IITA has produced and dispatched over 10 tons of experimental biological control products (Aflasafe), which will be tested in field trials for their efficacy to reduce aflatoxin contamination in three countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The production took place at IITA’s research facilities in Tanzania.
This is part of the Institute’s efforts to develop a sustainable and safe technology to reduce aflatoxin contamination prevalent in two of the most important key staple crops, maize and groundnut. Aflatoxin is a deadly poison produced by certain types of mold and is known to cause cancer and stunting in children, among other health problems.
IITA, in partnership with USDA-ARS and local national institutions, has successfully adapted the biocontrol technology and developed a biocontrol product with the generic name Aflasafe, which reduces aflatoxin contamination of groundnut and maize consistently by >80%. Currently, the product is registered for use in Nigeria and Kenya.
The biological control product is made from strains of the mold, Aspergillus flavus, that do not produce aflatoxin. These good strains outcompete and displace aflatoxin-producing strains of Aspergillus, thus reducing aflatoxin contamination of important food security crops like maize.
For each country two formulations of the biological control product were produced: (i) a country specific product using strains only found in that country, and (ii) a regional product produced from strains from that country, but these strains
also occur in other countries. For Malawi these were MW02 and MWMZ01—the former was made from strains that are specific to Malawi while the latter was made from region-specific strains. Similarly in Mozambique MZ02 and MWMZ01 were produced and dispatched. In Tanzania, TZ01 made from region-specific strains and TZ02 made from strains that are specific to Tanzania, were produced.
The experimental biological control products will be validated for efficacy to control aflatoxin in groundnut and maize. Both crops are staples in the three countries and are also highly susceptible to aflatoxin contamination. The biological control products will be tested this growing season and the data collected will go towards identifying the best formulation to control aflatoxins. After more validation tests the products will be registered and made available for wider use.
The atoxigenic strains were identified following rigorous tests and characterization done in IITA’s laboratories in Nigeria and USDA-ARS in Arizona, USA. These isolates lack the genes required for aflatoxin production and therefore will not produce aflatoxin in nature. Each product is made up of four atoxigenic strains that are widely distributed in each country and belong to different classes.
To produce the biological control product, atoxigenic strains of A. flavus are coated on roasted sorghum, which acts as a carrier of the product. The sorghum is roasted to prevent it from germinating when applied in the field. A polymer to
stick the spores of the fungus to the sorghum and a dye, a natural food colorant, are added. The final product looks blue (from the blue dye) and is readily distinguished from untreated sorghum.
“The production of 10 tons of aflasafe was by no means easy as we had to do it manually—it was three weeks of back-breaking work for our staff, partners, and other hired laborers,” said George Mahuku, IITA’s Plant Pathologist, who led the efforts.
They also received support from IITA staff in Nigeria where IITA already has a plant to produce Aflasafe. “However, we are very happy and proud of our efforts and the impact it will have in reducing aflatoxins, a major problem in the three countries,” Mahuku added. “It made economic sense to produce the Aflasafe in Tanzania as opposed to Nigeria as the shipping costs would be very high.” They were shipped by road to the two countries.
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Tanzania support the move by CGIAR to integrate the activities of the different centers and research programs (CRPs) and to better align with the country’s priorities in developing its agriculture sector.
The stakeholders agreed on this at a national consultation workshop on CGIAR “site integration” that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 4 December 2015 organized by IITA on behalf of CGIAR and CRPs working in the country. The aim was to discuss how CGIAR/CRPs can work better together and align their activities and research agenda to the country’s priorities. This was the second such workshop organized by IITA for CGIAR; the first one was held in Abuja, Nigeria, in November 2015.
The participants were drawn from the different ministries, national agricultural research systems (NARS), universities, NGOs, donor community, private sector, and farmers’ groups.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Sophia Kaduma, said that integration across the different CRPs and with a wide range of national partners and stakeholders in the agricultural sector can enhance the outcomes of CGIAR’s research agenda.
She noted the potential of the agriculture sector in Tanzania’s efforts to reduce poverty and achieve its developmental goals of shifting to a middle-income economy by 2025, and reiterated the role of research and development to improve agriculture and combat climate change and her government’s commitment to R&D.
“Integration” and “alignment” were viewed as important in ensuring that development projects focused on the country’s priorities and not the donors/centers’ whims.
Representatives from the farming communities and the private sector were also at the forum and highlighted some of the challenges they faced. “Farming has to be profitable. As farmers, we face many issues including poor extension services. The extension staff are few, without resources. We are therefore unable to access new technologies from research. Therefore the integration should look at how to support extension to reach farmers,” said Omary Mwaimu from AMSHA Institute.
Participants at the event identified areas where CGIAR/CRP support was needed:
Dissemination and adoption of new technologies from research.
Business and enterprise development to enable farmers to make money from farming.
Capacity building of local researchers especially in areas such as biotechnology.
Value addition and management of postharvest losses.
Productivity improvement with focus on climate change – one of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers who need support in terms of what crops to grow in the face of climate change.
Sustainable intensification of smallholdersystems to increase agricultural production and productivity on the same land size but at the same time taking care of their natural resources.
At the end of the workshop, participants came up with a framework for site integration that could help identify the issues and sites as well as suggestions on how to govern and implement the integration, how to monitor and evaluate impact and communicate both within the partners in the integration framework and with external audiences and partners.
For site integration to work, participants agreed that adequate resources should go into its implementation, and to ensure that all the partners are able see the benefit of being part of the integrated approach.
18 August was United Nation’s Youth day to create awareness on the importance of engaging youth politically, economically and socially which is essential for the achievement of sustainable human development. We speak to a few of the young people engaged in Agriculture at IITA to hear their experiences and views on how to engage young people in agriculture and research.
Veronica Kebwe, is the chairlady of Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs (TYA), a group of young people that have come together to engage in agribusiness with support from IITA and other partners. She has been providing leadership to the group since its formation, one a half years ago and says the group has been making progress in their agribusiness ventures.
“TYA members are now well equipped with agribusiness entrepreneurship skills. Currently we are producing/processing high quality cassava flour, soy milk/yoghurt, making various food products from cassava, growing tomatoes and providing weed management service through safe use of herbicides.
“For the time I have been leading TYA, I have discovered that there are many agriculture opportunities that the youth can utilize for their own development. However, they need to be patient and committed. Many youth who engage in agriculture expect to make a profit within a short time and they give up when this does not happen.
“Capacity building is also very important. If youth are provided with enough capital, they cannot be productive and benefit from agribusiness, unless they are well trained.”
On today’s youth day she encourages youth to be their own problem solvers. “Agriculture can be a solution to unemployment. There are many opportunities in the agriculture sector. The youth should keep their eyes and ears open, and be ready to put effort to benefit from agribusiness. Youth can be at the forefront of action to fight poverty. ”
Plenty of opportunities to be exploited
“Before joining the group, I had very little knowledge on agribusinesses. Now I realize there are a lot of opportunities in agribusiness that we young people can explore to create income for ourselves. People need food to survive, but not only food, but healthy food, so we are assured of a market for our agriculture produces,” says Mariam A. Sein, also a member of the TYA.
“I have learned a lot from all the training we have received, such as on cassava production/management, soy processing/production and applications of herbicide for weed management. I am now capable of producing/processing soymilk and making and cooking various cassava recipes such as donuts.
“Being a member of TYA has not only changed my mindset on agribusiness, but also exposed me to a lot of opportunities through the travels to other countries in sub-Saharan African countries and getting to meet and connect with fellow youth with interest in agriculture.
Maria observes that very few youth are engaged in agriculture. “This is because many of them perceive agriculture as an ‘inferior’ sector. Much still needs to be done to change this mindset and make the youth aware about the opportunities they can get from the agriculture sector.
On this youth day, Maria appreciates all ongoing efforts from governments to donors and institutions such as IITA to empower youth to find creative ways to generate income for themselves, She also urges the youth to keep their eyes open for any opportunities.
Equip youth with sufficient knowledge
“I simply enjoy what I am doing as it contributes to controlling diseases that attack farmers’ produce and contributes to the country’s development,” says Christopher Mduda, a bachelor’s degree holder of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and an intern at the IITA Eastern Africa hub conducting research under the supervision of IITA senior scientist James Legg.
He has been extracting DNA from cassava leaves and describes his stint with IITA as a wonderful learning experience that has built his confidence in performing molecular research.
“Most youth have negative perceptions about agriculture. This is because youth are not well exposed to many of the opportunities available. The youth are active and energetic; they can be at the core of development if they are equipped with sufficient agriculture knowledge and fully supported. They can make marvelous changes in the society”.
Reuben S. Samweli, an IITA Research Technician with a degree in Biotechnology and laboratory, also says youth engagement in agriculture is key for development and tackling the high levels of unemployment in many countries.
“Engaging youth in agriculture sectors can help deter them from engaging in anti-social behaviors such as drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual addiction, and crime. However, the support received from government and non-government organizations is inadequate. There is also poor flow of information.
“There is a need to provide information on existing opportunities to the youth across the country. There are many programs/project launched for supporting youth development; however the youth are not able to engage and benefit from them as they are not aware of them. If the youth are fully engaged in agriculture, they can play a big role in reducing levels of unemployment.
“The youth have a great role to play in supporting development and they should sufficiently be empowered, well involved, and linked with key players in the agricultural sector.”
IITA support to Tanzania Youth
IITA is currently running a program to empower youth to use agriculture as a tool to tackle youth unemployment across sub-Saharan Africa through training and by supporting them to carry out various agribusinesses. The program, IITA Youth Agripreneurs, was launched in 2012 at IITA Headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria. In Tanzania, the program started in January 2014 at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is supervised by Adebayo Abass, IITA’s Value Addition Specialist at the hub.
The group is currently engaged in processing soymilk, high quality cassava flour with the brand name Mpishi Mkuu, selling maize, and growing tomatoes. The group is also benefiting in participating in youth programs across the world, and members are exposed and linked with potential development actors within and outside the country.
IITA is also constructing a training center at a cost of US$1.5 million at Kwembe (about 25 km from Dar es Salaam City center) to equip the youth with skills in production and processing and running successful agribusinesses.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
“When I went to the United States, to do my Masters, I was the only black person in my class, the only female, and the only foreigner. On top of that I had two small children. It was not easy. However, with determination and hard work, I was able to do exceedingly well in my studies, ” says Dr Mary Mgonja, the Head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Dr Mgonja was sharing her journey on becoming a successful scientist as part of a panel discussion organized to mark this year’s International Women’s Day held at IITA offices in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The event dubbed “#Make It Happen for Women in Science” was in line with this year’s theme of the day “Make It Happen.”
The panel discussion brought together female researchers in Tanzania working in diverse research fields and at various levels of their career―those starting out and those at their peak to discuss and share their stories, successes, and challenges before an audience of IITA researchers and partners, the media, and aspiring young scientists drawn from surrounding secondary schools.
In addition to Dr Mgonja, the other panelists were Dr Costancia Rugumaru, Dean, Faculty of Science at the University of Dar es Salaam, School of Education; Dr Francesca Nelson, Senior Food Security Specialist, IITA; and Mary Maganga and Edda Mushi, both Research Supervisors at IITA. The session was facilitated by Dr Rose Shayo, a Senior Lecturer at IDS.
All the panelists shared on the various challenges they had undergone and the lessons they had learned along the way and offered words of encouragement to potential female scientists on the theme that kept repeating itself―hard work.
“In all the places you will work, be yourself, respect your superiors, and do your job well,” said Dr Regina Kapinga who will be joining IITA as Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Kapinga shared her journey from a simple village girl to working as a Senior Program Officer with the Gates Foundation.
“One of my biggest challenges was the lack of facilities to study science in my high school. We did not have laboratories and equipment, however, I persevered, did well, and processed to the university to pursue my degree in agronomy. At the university, we were very few students as many women said agronomy was very hard,” added Edda Mushi, on her challenges in school.
Dr Franscesca Nelson focused on the importance of tackling existing social conventions which were disadvantageous to women. These included issues such as violence against women and discrimination of women that were deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and social norms.
She also noted it was important for female researchers to use their knowledge and skills to find solutions to the challenges faced by poor rural women. For example, developing labor saving equipment and tackling inequalities.
Gender at IITA
While officially opening the event Dr Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa briefed participants on gender issues at the Institute. He said gender was very important to IITA as an international research organization whose goal was to tackle hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We cannot address poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in Africa without understanding and addressing the constraints faced by women farmers who in most communities provide the majority of agricultural labor on the family farm, and process food for markets as well as family consumption. In some communities, they are not allowed to own land or other agricultural assets and they have no say in any decisions on farm incomes and activities,” he said.
Dr Manyong added, “It’s therefore important to factor these considerations in our research-for-development interventions to ensure they benefit all Africans, women and men alike.”
The students from nearby secondary schools invited to the event appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear from successful researchers and said they had been very inspired.
“We were very happy to meet all these senior successful scientists who have motivated us and showed us that science can be for girls. We do not have many such opportunities and wish there would be more of such forums and even reach out to more girls including those in the rural areas,” said Glory Venance, a form 5 student at Jangwani Secondary School. “However, in our school similar to what one of the panelists shared, we do not have good facilities and equipment. Therefore even as we are being motivated to take up science, the government should also look into this challenge.”
The event was declared to be successful in many ways and the participants urged IITA and its partner institutions to find ways to organize other such forums to motivate girls to take up science and encourage the young scientists starting their careers.