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FAO, academia collaboration crucial to popularize cassava as industrial crop in Africa

Innovative technologies, improved varieties and linking farmers and buyers is the way forward

Cassava is food for about 800 million people globally in sub Saharan Africa. (Photo: ©FAO)

9 December, 2017, Kumasi (Ghana) - Stakeholders in the Roots and tubers sector have underscored the need to strengthen linkages between small actors and buyers particularly cassava to create jobs and improve the livelihoods of women and youth in Africa.

Over 40 participants representing Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda[DM(1]  were locked in a three–day workshop in Kumasi- Ghana to discuss the subject and make a business case for the crop’s cultivation.

The objective of the workshop was to exchange knowledge, experiences and lessons learned in the area of cassava production and protection from countries involved in the project, discuss interventions, regulatory frameworks, build capacity on how to develop catalogue of varieties using the right guidelines and make appropriate recommendations.

Components of the project

Speaking at the meeting, Moussa Djagoudi, Agribusiness officer and Regional project coordinator, FAO Regional Office for Africa, indicated that the project seeks to align existing national and regional strategies with initiatives supporting the development of improved regional market integration for the roots and tubers sector in African regions.

“It’s also to ensure that the competitiveness and viability of roots and tubers value chains was strengthened by improving inclusive business models, sustainable intensification of production, build SME and Farmer Organizations capacities, improve access information services and finance for smallholders as well as small producer access to climatic risk management instruments’’, he added.

Innovating to unlock cassava industrial potentials

Recognising the need  to learn more about other perspectives of improved cassava varieties, the participants visited two farms managed by two institutions; the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Crop Research Institute,(CRI) Ghana, farms where they were introduced to some improved varieties and an innovative cassava harvester.

“Cassava is food for about 800 million people globally in sub Saharan Africa, the crop is consumed everyday and with the new awareness about industrial production of cassava, Innovative technologies, high yielding varieties and viable markets are needed for cassava to become a real industrial crop in Africa”, remarked Professor Emmanuel Bobobee, Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering at KNUST, and also a farmer.

“In view of this as a Science and Technology University, we have developed a cassava harvester technology that has the capacity to harvest tonnes of cassava within minutes as against the traditional way of harvesting cassava which involved exerting a lot of energy and time” he indicated.  

He noted: “with the positive attributes of the technology, it is enough incentive for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and other development partners to help push and disseminate it globally especially in Sub Saharan Africa”.

Research Linking farmers to market

Joe Manu-Aduening, Plant Breeder/Agronomist, Crops Research Institute (CRI), Ghana said the Institute made a conscious effort to carry out its own breeding program by evaluating cassava materials needed in Ghana and Africa which were resistant to diseases and responded to the need of the market.

“This led to the collection of over 250 cassava germ plasm, we evaluated them for farmer preference and also the ones not susceptible to the African mosaic diseases- most predominant cassava disease”, he noted.

“The improved cassava varieties we have planted in this farm are good for home use especially for the preparation of “fufu and Akekye” but more importantly we have varieties that contain huge volumes/content of starch appropropriate for industrial use” Dr Aduening explained.

FAO promoting improved cassava varieties with industrial potential

Moussa Djagoudi, noted “we observed from the field that varieties met the requirement of industry/market and this to an extent is the business model FAO is promoting, that is producing high yielding cassava varieties needed by the market, simply means strengthening the linkage between producers, processors and buyers”.

“This is what the project is trying to promote, strengthening linkages between small actors and buyers in roots and tubers sector in Africa and “We are happy to bring many actors from other countries to see what Ghana is doing”, he emphasised.

Moussa also explained that this high yielding cassava varieties are responding to the need of the consumers and market and this will create demand for the crop, increase production which will eventually lead to more revenue for the value chains actors.

Research for Development at its best

Georges Mbanda,  President of National Cassava Processors Association, Cameroun, also a farmer, praised the Ghanaian researchers for linking research to development, saying ‘’ here we see that the researchers involved the farmers taking into consideration their culture in branding the varieties and giving names to varieties which reflects their regions, this makes it very easy for penetration.

He welcomed the development of the cassava harvester and improved high yielding varieties saying “this is situation of research for development and not just ordinary research, the research is inclusive, the farmers interest were considered, they were part of it.

‘’This is worth considering in Cameroun, although we have very good research materials they are named in the languages they consider sometimes by the size of the tubers or the number of the leaves, and this is lost on them over a period of time’.

Ayodele Omowumi David, a Project Coordinator at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Nigeria, said the focus of the workshop, which strengthens linkages between farmers, producers and consumer, will impact a farming projects currently executed in Nigeria, adding that it is strategic because farmers need such links to improve their livelihood and better their income. 

About the project

The project “Strengthening linkages between small actors and buyers in the Roots and Tubers sector in Africa’’ is funded by the European Union and is being implemented in seven countries in Africa: Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda. This project aims at improving the livelihoods of small producers and other actors engaged in the roots and tubers value chains.

 [DM(1]The project covers these countries but they were not present at the workshop because they don’t deal with cassava. Participants from Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Burkina that are actually part of the project beneficiary countries shared their experiences with the audience.

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