8. Policies that save and grow
Sustainable intensification of cassava production calls for political commitment, investment, institutional support and a demand-driven approach to technology development.
In most countries, cassava production is labour-intensive and subsistence-oriented, with low levels of technology uptake, high production costs and post-harvest losses, and weak linkages to markets. Transforming the subsector will require the identification of profitable value chains and market preferences, as well as strategies for reducing price variability and enhancing the quality, volume and reliability of production. There is no “one-size-fits-all” set of recommendations. But it is possible to identify the key features of enabling policies and institutions for sustainable intensification of smallholder cassava production.
Promote “Save and Grow” farming approaches and practices. In many countries, low-input production systems already incorporate key “Save and Grow” practices, such as reduced tillage, the use of cover crops and mulches, and mixed cropping. Extension services will be crucial in building on those practices by ensuring access to relevant external knowledge and linking it to the wealth of knowledge held by smallholders. Cassava growers may need incentives to manage ecosystem services such as soil conservation and protection of biodiversity.
Facilitate improvements in the input supply chain. Governments should encourage private investment in the production of inputs, and establish credit lines to enable private suppliers to organize bulk procurements that ensure their timely availability. Institutions that facilitate participation, such as farmer organizations, help to reduce the transaction costs of accessing input markets. While “smart subsidy” schemes can help smallholders to purchase fertilizer at below-market prices, group-based revolving credit funds are a more sustainable source of financing.
Control pest and disease threats. Cassava intensification programmes should promote integrated pest management, which draws on resistant cultivars, biological control agents, bio-pesticides and habitat management to protect crops. Increased international movement of cassava germplasm will require improved phytosanitary measures to ensure that planting material is free of pests and diseases. Robust detection and diagnostic methods to prevent the movement of pathogens are essential for improving quarantine security and bringing national phytosanitary regulations into line with international trade conventions and protocols.
Support cassava research and technology development. Applied research can facilitate the cassava transformation by helping to develop varieties with disease- and pest-resistance, water-efficient irrigation technologies, and appropriate farm machinery. Policies should foster public-private partnerships for technology development, and link them to markets in order to facilitate the up-scaling of successful innovations. For example, Thailand’s Tapioca Development Institute is working with CIAT and Kasetsart University to breed “waxy” starch cassava varieties adapted to Thai growing conditions.
Improve rural infrastructure. Investment in roads, warehousing and processing capacity in production zones will help to link cassava farmers and processors to growing markets for intermediate products that have a longer shelf life. It will also contribute to price stabilization, reduce postharvest losses and lower transaction costs. With appropriate technology and equipment, community-level processing plants could produce high quality cassava flour, grits and chips for rural and urban-based industries, allowing growers to retain a bigger share of the value-addition.
Develop value chains and markets. Governments should promote private investment in cassava processing, and foster associations that link growers and processors. Cassava industry stakeholders may need assistance in initiating industry-wide or activityspecific associations. Planners should link support to the cassava subsector with action to develop associated industries – for example, increasing output of high quality cassava flour will require the strengthening of links with the bakery industry.
Reduce farmers’ exposure to price volatility. Guaranteeing farmers a reasonable price for their crops will encourage them to invest in production. One approach is government subsidies. More sustainable approaches include contract farming, which helps to reduce the transaction costs of input supply and output marketing by aggregating small parcels of farmland. Governments in developing countries should also foster greater availability of crop insurance which improves farmers’ capacity to bear risk.
Save and Grow: Cassava (FAO, 2013) can be purchased from firstname.lastname@example.org