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February 16, 2010

Second phase of cassava value-adding project underway in eastern and southern Africa

Cassava has long been known, albeit wrongly, as a poor man’s crop. Not many are aware of its importance as raw material in the textile, food, pharmaceutical, packaging, and cosmetics industries. In countries of sub-Saharan Africa where cassava is commonly grown, its alternative uses could spur economic growth and development.

A four-year project funded by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) hopes to realize this potential through the promotion of the production and use of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF).

The US$4.5 million initiative covers Zambia, Madagascar, and Tanzania, and will be supervised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

At the project’s launch on 2 -3 February in Lusaka, Zambia, Dr Abass Adebayo, IITA cassava value chain specialist and the project’s regional coordinator said the project will work with 9000 small-scale farmers and processors in the three countries to produce and sell HQCF.

The farmers will be provided with improved high-yielding varieties and training on good agricultural practices and processing of cassava.

The project follows up a similar one implemented from 2003 to 2007. In that project, smallholder farmers and farmer groups were introduced to simple market-oriented technologies to transform highly-perishable fresh cassava into stable value-added products such as chips and HQCF.

“In many countries, cassava is perceived as a subsistence crop. This project hopes to change this by developing its income-generating potential,” says Watson Mwale, Director of Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI). He invited all intending entrepreneurs in the cassava sector to join the project to make their dreams come true.

Ralaivoa Solange, an R&D manager with Biscuiterie JB, a biscuit-making factory in Madagascar, who was also at the forum said the company had previously used blended flour containing 25-30% cassava flour to make biscuits and wafers.

“They were accepted by the consumers and the company was saving money,” she said. “However, we stopped after a year as the supply was not regular and the quality was not consistent. The cassava flour was supplied by small scale processors and farmers using sun-drying method."

Adebayo said to overcome this, the second phase of the project will follow a two-step production process. At the village level, farmers and small scale processors will grate and extract water from the cassava to form a semi-dry grit with a longer shelf-life which will then be transported to higher scale industries for mechanical drying using flash driers, milling, grading, and packaging into HQCF for sale to end users such as Biscuiterie JB.

The project intends to transit smallholder farmers from subsistence production to commercial production of cassava and fully integrate small-scale processors into the industrialized supply chain.

National partners working with IITA include ZARI in Zambia, the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC) in Tanzania, and the National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (FOFIFA) in Madagascar.


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