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.

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.

Improving agriculture, changing lives: IITA’s 20 years of agriculture research in Tanzania

In 2014, IITA marked its 20th anniversary in Tanzania. This video highlights some of the activities researchers have been involved in and the successes achieved so far from some of the beneficiaries. These include research on tackling the major pests and diseases of important food crops in the country, adding value through processing and better postharvest handling and building the capacity of researchers in the country and region.

Video highlights

Tackling poverty and hunger in Tanzania through working with small-holder farmers: IITA has been working with small-holder farmers in Tanzania who are not only a majority of the population but are also a majority of the poor living in rural areas. Therefore, according to Dr Victor Manyong, IITA director for eastern Africa, improving their income and livelihoods can have a significant impact in efforts to reduce hunger and poverty and develop the country.

Wilting bananas: Banana is an important crop not only in Tanzania but also in the whole of the Great Lakes region where it’s grown by over 70 million people. However, their livelihoods and food security are currently threatened by a deadly bacterial disease, the Banana Xanthomonus Wilt (BXW) which is spreading through the region.  Former IITA Plant pathologist Dr Fen Beed explains ongoing efforts on tackling and controlling this disease.

Double scourge for cassava farmers:  Cassava, another important crop for small-holder farmers in Tanzania is currently under attack from two viral diseases: Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD). IITA’s plant virologist Dr James Legg has been hot on the trail of the vector transmitting the diseases, trying to understand them, how they spread the diseases, and how to control them.

Improving farmers’ varieties: One way to increase the production of smallholder farmers is by giving them improved high-yielding varieties. Working together with their counterparts at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, IITA researchers have worked hard to develop improved varieties of important crops to smallholder farmers. This is one area in which IITA has had considerable success in the country notes Dr Fidelis Myaka, the Director for Research and Development.

The farmers are also involved in the improvement of their varieties through a process known as Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) to ensure the new crops are not only high yielding but that they also meet their preferences  in terms of taste, texture, mealiness and other traits as explained by Dr Edward Kanju, IITA’s cassava breeder.

The improved high-yielding varieties developed by IITA and their partners are motivating farmers to grow cassava as attested by James Mele, a farmer in the coast region of Tanzania who had nearly abandoned growing cassava altogether due  to diseases.

Reducing unsafe use of pesticides by vegetable farmers: Vegetables are high-value crops in urban areas. They are therefore attractive to surrounding farmers who often cultivate them intensively using a lot of pesticides and many times incorrectly. This poses a health risk to themselves and their consumers as well as to the environment. IITA’s Dr Danny Coyne, a soil health specialist, is working with vegetable farmers to show them safe and more sustainable ways to control pests and diseases in vegetables.

Adding value to farmers’ produce:   Supporting farmers to increase production is not enough to tackle food insecurity and poverty if it’s not accompanied by efforts to protect yields and ensure farmers have access to markets. IITA’s value chain specialist, Dr Adebayo Abass has been working with farmers to process their produce into high value products with longer shelf lives and which fetch more money in the market.

Capacity building:  IITA has also put in a lot of effort to train researchers – its own staff and those from partner institutions. These include conducting short courses, supporting Msc and PHD studies and through internship. Dr Fidelis Myaka, Director for Research and Development sees this as another important contribution by IITA to the country’s effort to develop its agriculture sector.

New science facility: To ensure IITA is well equipped to deal with current and emerging agricultural issues in Tanzania and the whole of Eastern Africa, the Institute has constructed a state-of-the art science facility with five well-equipped laboratories. The facility was inaugurated by the president of Tanzania, His Excellency, Dr Jakaka Mrisho Kikwete in May 2013.

Smallholder groups in Sierra Leone get eleven new cassava processing factories

IITA with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has constructed and equipped eleven cassava processing factories for smallholder groups. This is part of efforts to support the Smallholders’ Commercialization Program (SCP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) in the Eastern, Southern and Northern provinces of Sierra Leone. IITA has also supported these smallholder groups and farmers in their immediate2

Women participating in the sensory evaluation survey of the new cassava products
Women participating in the sensory evaluation survey of the new cassava products

to establish cassava farms of improved varieties to feed the factories.

Dr Braima James, IITA Representative in Sierra Leone, also said that the SARD-SC cassava project has plans to establish four more factories with support from the African Development Bank. Two will be in Tonkololi district, one in Bo district, and another in Kono district.

In addition to the various products already widespread in Sierra Leone, the new factories  will process the improved varieties into four new value-added products that IITA is promoting—odorless fufu flour, attieke/cassava couscous, tapioca pap, and cassava ice cream.

To ensure that there is a viable market for these new products being promoted, a consumer acceptance and sensory evaluation survey was led by Dr Bussie Maziya-Dixon, Head of IITA’s Crop Utilization Unit. The survey showed that the new products were “good to go”. This survey was undertaken to capture consumers’ perceptions and acceptance of the new products and possible recommendations for their improvement. Ibironke Popoola, Research Associate, Crop Utilization Unit, said the exercise also provided marketing information for small- and medium-scale industries wishing to commercialize the new products.

Other partners working to ensure the sustainability of this project include the Sierra Leone MAFFS, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), World Vision International, Future in Our Hands, and World Hope International.