The task to be faced now is to how to develop successful long-term relationships between members of the cassava supply chain (farmers to agribusiness entrepreneurs) to address and resolve the problems faced by everyone from ineffectual markets, low levels of technology use, and inadequate policy and regulatory systems.
There is no shortage of recommendations. The team while undertaking this study identified no less than 300 recommendations. Each one was suggested as a means for addressing a genuine problem or concern. Rather than listing them here (although it is strongly recommended that one should review them for future consideration) it was preferred to suggest a process or way forward to building a legitimate and respected cassava industry in Nigeria that may activate its own solutions.
To date cassava remains, in the eyes of most Nigerians, a food security or self-sufficiency crop. Although their consumption of cassava in the form of processed gari and fufu suggests otherwise, the perception remains strong. It is not thought of as an agrifood industry capable of moving the Nigerian economy forward. It is not thought of as able to provide a marketable convenience food to a growing urban market nor as an export-earning provider. It is not known by the general population that it is capable of providing high quality flour, starch, animal feed and ethanol energy. These are just some of the knowledge gaps, attitudes and mind-sets that must change and if changed, will stimulate cassavas role and importance in Nigerias agricultural economy and overall development.
This will entail support from champions outside and inside the industry. In the early years of change this will most likely be initiated through small-scale processing chains and vertical integration in selected industries. To get there cassava partners must start to think bigger.
Thinking bigger in this context means partners must begin thinking beyond ones own enterprise; thinking beyond their operations; thinking backwards by forming strong and trusted linkages with ones suppliers of raw material and thinking forwards by forming strong and trusted linkages with ones customers.
Thinking bigger is not about thinking of bigger profit margins or bigger outputs and capacities. Thinking bigger is first thinking about ensuring that contracts are fulfilled and high levels of quality and service are maintained throughout the supply chain all the way to final consumer satisfaction.
Final and intermediate consumer satisfaction will ensure the success of the cassava industry. Small firm level successes will eventually lead to bigger successes and ultimately the success of a larger industry.
The anticipated beneficiaries of a successful cassava supply chain are the producers, processors, traders, transporters and consumers of cassava today and in the future. Cassava, presently and accurately is described as an orphaned commodity without institutional, organizational and policy support. The number of intended beneficiaries can be thought of as the sand in an hourglass: a large number of smallholder producers feeding into a narrow opening of traders, processors and final product distributors, opening again to a large number of low-income consumers of the final product.
The process for change must be demand driven. In this analysis untapped value added product opportunities for cassava were identified in urban convenience foods such as ready to eat or serve gari and fufu, breads and snacks to name just a few. Cassava crop expansion was identified as willing and able. The constraints that prevent production from meeting its demand potential are vast, as evident from interviews with industrialists, producer groups, state extension officers, previous reports (NAPA, etc) and the list of recommendations. Yet, given these vast constraints there remains hope and optimism that these constraints can be overcome if the industry is able to find a way to work together for its greater good, set for itself well defined indicators of progress and a mechanism to monitor, detect and solve subsequent foreseen and unforeseen problems.
The process begins with the identification of a group of interested enthusiasts that will act as catalysts, and hopefully champions, for the Nigerian Cassava Industry. This means catalysts and champions not only for the industry itself but catalysts and champions representing each link in that chain from production to processing to final consumption.
These catalysts and champions, if serious, would be willing to put their time and energies into organizing events and activities that will give input and ideas to the development of the industry. Legitimate activities of such a group would be to identify the constraints limiting the exploitation of opportunities, ways of overcoming the constraints and modalities for proceeding.
When agreement is reached, action can proceed. In simple terms this means a concerted effort to overcoming identified market imperfections with the anticipated outcome that the supply chain is improved, or minimally begins to exist.
An on-going programme of data collection is a prerequisite for this process to succeed. Without reliable data generating an accurate knowledge base, simulating new ideas and future directions, and providing planning and performance evaluation advice, little can be reasonably expected. Data and evaluations provide a guide for improving, modifying and introducing new activities.
Capacity building is also a prerequisite for this process to succeed. The skills and attributes required for this process include data base management, organizational behaviour, problem solving, negotiation and facilitation, benevolent leadership and unrelenting patience.
The overriding goal of this process is to contribute to the development and maintenance of a well functioning market for Nigerian cassava and cassava products. To do this, a series of outcomes and activities are suggested to remove barriers to progress.
As each barrier is removed, it is anticipated that new efficiencies are gained, economic incentives are identified, opportunities for product development and product utilization are realized and industrial growth occurs.
It is already known from interviews throughout the country and industrial reports that linkages between suppliers and users of cassava products are weak and damaged; that in the industrial market, cassava supplies are uncompetitive at current prices and unstable at competitive prices; and that traditional markets of processed foods such as gari and fufu are by and large untapped to date. These facts illustrate both promise and room for improvement. However, barriers such as mistrust, impatience and inaction coupled with exceptional costs, market imbalances, hidden information, barriers to new entrants and unequal quality of products, inhibit growth potential.
Outcome 1: Industrial Cooperation and Trust
Presently players and potential players in the cassava marketplace are guarded and distrustful of each other. Many have strong and legitimate complaints as discussed in the previous sections of this report. Producers and processors distrust traders and middlepersons, traders and middlepersons distrust transporters and end users.
Therefore, before filling a room with market stakeholders expecting them to immediately work together to identify and solve problems within the supply chain, an environment of trust, confidence and cooperation must be established. An event, a reason, a purpose must be invented that will draw them together devoid of adversarial agendas.
A positive environment that encourages changing attitudes needs to be created. Trust, honesty, cooperation, problem solving and building lasting relationships (if not friendships) are requirements. From this changed position, each subsequent activity of the industry stakeholders is more likely to succeed.
One event under which such an environment might be immediately created is the planning and organization of a National Cassava Fair. Different than the International Cassava Trade Show (currently underway for 2004), but possibly linked to the timing and excitement of that show, this fair would be targeted to domestic producers, processors, consumers and potential users of cassava nationally. The objective of the fair is to engage industrial stakeholders in a tangible activity that is positive, exciting, different and hopefully fun.
The long-term outcome of such an event includes:
stronger networks and improved linkages throughout the marketing chain;
greater trust and understanding of the interdependency among industry participants;
excellence within all aspects of the cassava industry;
pride in the accomplishments achieved by the industry;
heightened profile of the importance of and potential within the cassava industry;
improved consumer and retailer attitudes toward cassava and cassava based products;
Measurable outcomes in terms of attendance, consumer awareness and ownership.
Outcome 2: Ownership and Leadership
The second outcome required for the Nigerian Cassava Industry is a sense of ownership and leadership. The cassava industry throughout Nigeria has long been neglected as a valued and respected contributor to modern agriculture. Yet cassava production is greater than the more respected and more organized commodities in Nigeria. For the cassava industry to mature in Nigeria it too must organize itself in such a way that it can provide leadership to initiate, propel and activate desirable and needed changes. Without ownership, change is meaningless. Without leadership, change will not happen.
One mechanism used to provide ownership and leadership to stakeholders of an industry is to form an association. In todays society of political lobbying and global competition the formation of industry commodity associations, is almost mandatory. In North America is it common to see an association formed to represent even the smallest agricultural niche market let alone an industry the size of cassava in Nigeria. The specific objectives of a Nigerian cassava industry association could be to:
foster cooperation among industry participants along the supply chain from suppliers of raw material to the final end users;
lobby state and federal governments for improvement in transportation, infrastructure, data collection and conducive policy;
promote the attributes of cassava and encourage greater utilization;
encourage excellence and use of high quality raw material and final product development;
educate the public, policy-makers, investors, and members in the production and marketing of cassava and cassava products by updating and distributing the Cassava Statistical Handbook;
exchange information on local, national and regional demands, supplies and prices;
disseminate timely market information, of interest to all industry participants;
Assist in the provision of crosscutting services such as insurance, transportation, storage.
Providing a more organized, more efficient and more relevant cassava industry encourages ownership and leadership. An improved cassava industry could significantly advance the commercialization of smallholder agricultural production, the economic welfare of members within the cassava supply chain, their rural communities and urban consumers.
It is strongly recommended that the association seek the active membership or at least the observing representation of publicly respected consumers. Membership might include representatives from the teachers or nurses unions. Representation by either would provide reassurance to the general public that their concerns and opinions were being heard, especially if awareness campaigns were initiated by the industry. It would also provide an all important dialogue between producers, processors and consumers of cassava and cassava products. A two way educational process is necessary if industrial and consumer biases are to change.
For those public goods that cannot be provided through industrial organization or associations, such as improved transportation, highways, communications and security, the newly formed cassava associations can begin lobbying respective governments of the importance of such needed and justifiable services.
Outcome 3: Quality of Product and Profit
Once the industry has been able to achieve a sense of cooperation and trust, ownership and leadership, members should feel empowered to make the necessary changes that ensure the production of quality products and profit.
Without trust, without honesty, without self-regulating quality assurance, without meeting commitments, advances cannot be made in the commercialization of cassava in Nigeria. Without these things, purchases sight unseen cannot be made; contracts guaranteeing supply and price cannot be trusted; and product users cannot predict the outcome of their efforts. These traits (trust, honesty, quality and commitment) form the basis (or back bone) of all successful market economies. Without them Nigerias entry into a global marketplace will not happen and if it does it will not be sustained.
Although these traits originate from ones own individual character, an industry can encourage and reward these traits in numerous ways. Firstly, by setting an example and a standard by which to follow. For example, leaders of the Cassava Industry Association can exemplify transparency at all costs. Meaning that their personal accounts (records and bookkeeping) and that of the association are open to public scrutiny and inquiry, their participation in illegal activities is strictly prohibited and that checks and balances of power within the association are assured.
Only when the association and its leadership itself are shown to be honest, trustworthy, and dependable and committed stewards for the industry can it assist and encourage its membership to maintain a quality of product that is profitable.
Homogeneous and substitutable cassava products according to quality and grade improve price determination and marketing conditions. Transaction costs are lowered as contracts can now be articulated and enforced. Products can be handled in greater volume and travel greater distances if grades and standards convey accurate information about the product. This helps to determine prices and helps to define contracts of delivery. This leads to lower transaction costs, the ability to bulk product keeping prices and transportation costs low, improved efficiency of markets, more transparency, and the identification of market niches. The ability to provide a standard and uniform product will provide those sellers with a premium price because such changes provide savings further along the supply chain.
In addition to the premium prices that will be received by those that meet their quality and timely commitments to buyers, industrial rewards may also be awarded in terms of peer respect and esteem. Awards of excellence as defined and described throughout the industrial supply chain can be bestowed upon the best of the best in the industry.
Quality encouraging projects can also be initiated by the industry for children and youth within and outside the school system. This will ensure a continuous supply of high quality, highly educated and motivated cassava producers and industrialists for the future. Members of the Teachers and Nurses Union could help to facilitate such educational programmes and rewards. Large industrial users of cassava may also see the advantages to their companies to be seen funding and promoting such programmes in Nigeria.
Membership within such a highly regarded Cassava Industrial Association may also exact a cost in terms of maintaining and sustaining the minimum standard of product quality. For the betterment of the industry the Association may choose to insist and enforce a minimum level of product quality on its members to complement generic advertising campaigns. When running an expensive advertising campaign, quality and delivery of product is all important. If the quality is not as advertised or not on the shelf as promised, the costly advertising has been for nothing. A generic advertising campaign requires sufficient supplies of the advertising quality of product to meet anticipated demand. This is particularly difficult with a highly perishable commodity such as cassava in the food market. That said if the product is available and meets its advertised quality the returns to a generic advertising campaign is very rewarding.
Outcome 4: Information and Planning
The final outcome suggested from this study is that of information and planning. Information is the basis of successful planning. Planning forms the basis of successful outcomes. Thus a full circle turn has been made. All the above-mentioned outcomes must be based on informed decision-making and planning. Planning implies organization. It implies thinking ahead of what is needed to be done now to be prepared for the future. This is what research provides. To many industrialists, research has little meaning yet they themselves undertake research (or information seeking) every day when they plan and make their decisions about future activities.
As an industry, a minimum amount of respect and attention must be given to the results and suggestions from applied research in production, processing, distribution mechanisms, market research and product development. Competitive funding in support of excellence and innovation within the cassava industry should be given priority. The purpose of such funds is to target the advancement of small, medium and large scale agricultural activities in cassava production, marketing and product and human resource development. The outcome of these funds is to:
increase the sale of locally grown or processed cassava products;
develop and commercialize innovative cassava technologies;
develop new uses for cassava;
contribute to the long-term economic health of cassava growing communities;
create partnerships within the cassava subsector and across sectors;
lead to the long-term competitiveness of the cassava industry;
Enhance international and/or cross-border trade.
The anticipated use of these funds is to support and encourage market participants and stakeholders to address and resolve both anticipated and unanticipated problems as they arise.
The overriding objective of this study and these outcomes is to encourage an environment where industry agents initiate and activate the market corrections within their power. Each outcome and activity is suggested in the spirit of providing positive support to a deserving cassava industry. By rewarding innovation, efficiency and excellence in the New Nigerian Cassava Industry, it is strongly believed that both the human spirit and domestic economy will be advanced.
Sustainability demands a participatory process, transparency, relevancy and cost recovery. It is suggested that each activity follows its own path starting with small modest objectives and budgets, growing only as cost recovering resources allow. Sustainability also demands ownership of change. It means participating fully and being rewarded for that participation. It means taking ownership of the problems and difficulties arising from change. Changing attitudes, consumer perception, and business practices are not easy and require patience and time and initiation from within.
 The list is available