Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is an important food crop both for urban and rural consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cassava is a basic staple food in Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Malawi, and Tanzania. Recently, cassava has increasingly gained importance as a cash crop for smallholder farmers in the region. Africa is the largest cassava producing region in the world. About 93 percent of the produce is consumed as food (in contrast to Latin America and Asia where less than half is utilised for food consumption). Millions of African farmers grow cassava mainly for home consumption and the local markets. The competitiveness of African cassava manufactured products at the world market is low because the crop is produced and processed for subsistence and not for commercial use. Public sector efforts to commercialise cassava have also not been effective.
One of the key constraints to cassava production in Africa is lack of mechanisation or of appropriate production and processing tools. Africa is the world’s largest cassava producing region and accounts for nearly 55 percent of the world’s output despite the fact that yields are the lowest in the world (10 tonnes per hectare compared to 26 tonnes per hectare in India). The main challenge is that market opportunities for cassava in Africa are limited compared to other cassava-producing regions of the world. It has been established that where cassava farmers have access to markets, they tend to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies. . The use of cassava as feedstock in the manufacturing industry, and any other large scale use (such as the mandated incorporation of 10 percent cassava flour in wheat flour for bread making in Nigeria) requires the existence of a large number of small-scale cassava processing units.
The existing capacity for manufacturing quality cassava processing equipment in Africa is limited and unless this capacity is enhanced, it is unlikely that cassava farmers and entrepreneurs will benefit from these new market opportunities. Manufacturers in Africa obtain prototypes from foreign manufacturers and fabricate them. However, the quality of the locally made equipment is usually sub-standard and uncompetitive. On the other hand, equipment manufacturers outside of Africa are reluctant to supply equipment to African businesses for fear of piracy and subsequent loss of market.
To address the above production challenges, AATF is coordinating a new project known as Cassava Mechanization and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) whose goal is ‘To enhance the contribution of cassava production and processing technologies to sustainable improvements in food security, incomes and livelihoods of farmers, processors, and marketers in the cassava sector..
The project’s purpose is: to develop competitive cassava commodity value chains for a reliable supply of processed products for food and non-food industrial use, by upgrading and expanding traditional planting, harvesting and processing techniques in selected countries in Africa.
The specific objectives of the project are to:
- Negotiate access and transfer of cassava mechanisation and agro-processing technologies for use by smallholder farmers
- Increase cassava production through mechanisation across the entire value chain and thus reduce post-harvest losses and demands for intensive labour
- Add value to the cassava industry through value addition and creation of market linkages by linking smallholder farmers with agro-processing centers
- Build capacity of local entrepreneurs to design prototype machines, manufacture, maintain and repair the necessary equipment for cassava planting, harvesting and processing
- Expand the utilisation of safe, quality, diversified, value-added cassava products and derivatives
- Establish a project governance and management system that will assure the efficient realisation of the above objectives
The project will target 3.5 million smallholder farmers including agro-processors, service providers and fabricators in Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and DRC covering approximately 7.5 million hectares for farmers who need labour-saving cassava production and processing technologies. This will lead to increased incomes and better livelihoods for millions of cassava farmers and thousands of small-scale entrepreneurs through the use of cassava as a raw material for manufacturing various products in African countries.
It is expected that the development of appropriate prototypes of cassava production and processing units coupled with capacity building on cassava production, processing and enterprise development will result in higher revenues and better working conditions for the labour force, which is largely composed of women (over 80 percent). AATF is thereforeworking with partners to improve cassava productivity through approaches that optimise labour requirements during field and processing operations. It is expected that these interventions will guarantee a stable and equitable large-scale transition of smallholder farmers from subsistence into commercial production and of small-scale processing enterprises from partial-market orientation to full integration in industrialised cassava supply chains. The project is focusing on smallholder farmers, small and medium scale enterprises and associations of processors as a means of linking producers and processors with market demand.
The pilot phase of the project started in 2012 in Zambia and Nigeria and will take two years after which a full scale project will be rolled out to cover more countries. The pilot farmers in the two countries have been identified and planting preparations and other capacity building activities are underway in readiness for the 2012/2013 planting season.
AATF has to date managed to negotiate and access cassava mechanisation technologies from Brazil and the first batch of demonstration machinery is expected in the pilot countries by the end of 2012. AATF will partner with government agencies responsible for cassava development as well as with the private sector players in the industry in the respective countries in order to build strong public-private partnerships to ensure project sustainability.