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.

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.

Exploring the cassava leaves value chain

While the main source of income for cassava farmers in Tanzania is through the sale of cassava roots, the leaves which are edible and rich in protein and vitamins are becoming increasingly important. However, trade in the leaves is less developed and experiences many challenges including volatility in prices and a lack of market information. Furthermore, the women play a major role in the production and processing of cassava leaves but they are not engaged on the commercial side.

This is according to Karolin Anderson, who is conducting a study to explore and describe the cassava leaves value chain and, at the same time, looking into gender relations. Karolin is an MSc student of Agricultural Development from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, co-supervised by scientists at IITA-Tanzania. Karolin, who has been in Tanzania for three months in Kimwamindi and Nyamakalago villages in Mkuranga district, recently presented her preliminary findings at a seminar at IITA-Tanzania.

“Scientific studies show that 100 g of cooked cassava leaves provides about 3.7 g of protein which is pretty good for a green leafy vegetable. They contain essential amino acids such as lysine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and lots of arginine — which are not common in green leafy plants thus making cassava leaves a great protein source,” she said. “They contain vitamins and can play a key role in improving the nutritional status of farming communities.”

Harvesting cassava leaves.
Harvesting cassava leaves.

She said although there had been a steady increase in trade in cassava leaves which are found in supermarkets and the local markets and a corresponding increase in demand, the farmers complained that they lacked sufficient information on markets.

Nearly  half of the farmers interviewed who sell the fresh leaves sold only one-half of what they produced and the other half was for home use. This was due to insufficient market information for a majority of them. Market prices were also unstable, which discouraged many of the farmers from engaging in producing cassava leaves for commercial purposes. Other challenges identified were the lack of processing technology and the low level of awareness about their potential value.

In terms of gender roles, Karolin said women were more engaged in the production and processing of cassava leaves than men but occupied less in their trade in the markets. The women were engaged in the harvesting and grinding of the leaves which was also done only by female retailers. In 62% of the households that were engaged in cassava leaves production the processing was all done by women. Responsibilities at home, lack of business skills, low confidence, and negative cultural norms were some of the factors that limited women’s engagement in this trade.

Karolin said the cultural norms that undermined women’s participation in the commercial trade in cassava leaves should be discouraged and men encouraged to support women’s engagement in markets. This in turn would speed up efforts to tackle hunger and poverty.

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.