A section of the participants during the cassava Symposium
Although the combined market demand for both cassava and sweet potatoes is estimated at US$ 48 million per year, these gains have not been attained by smallholder farmers because of varied factors. Moreover, Africa is the world’s largest cassava producing region accounting for nearly 55% of the world’s cassava output. Yet, Africa’s processed yields are still the lowest in the world standing at only 10 tons per hectare compared to 26 tons per hectare in India.
In line with this, FCI with support from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) held a Cassava and Sweet potato Investment Forum at the Africa Regional office in early 2014 to discuss the opportunities available to meet this demand. Themed “Unleashing Business Opportunities in Cassava and Sweet potato’”, the symposium brought together participants from local, regional and international private sector, farmer associations, donor, research, governments and development organizations. The main objective of the investment forum was to educate the private sector investors about the processing and commercialization opportunities available for Cassava and Sweet potato value chains.
At the symposium, participants highlighted that the main hindrance to production and processing of cassava and sweet potatoes in Africa is the lack of access to appropriate mechanizations to support cassava processing and commercialization. This technological gap has left farmers with no option but to produce cassava on a low scale; mainly for subsistence use. As a result, the potential that cassava and sweet potato offers the continent both as a source of food and industrial raw material has not been fully exploited.
Participants presented various ways to curb these challenge. Part of the solution is to expand cassava seed production among smallholder farmers through contract farming. To address the problem of drought, farmers should adopt irrigation systems. Cassava processors need to consider diversifying value added cassava products in order to augment the wheat industry.
The key note speaker during the Investment Symposium was AGRA’s President, Jane Karuku. In her speech, she emphasized the need for adoption of various innovative technologies in enhancing commercialization of the two crops for improved food security and increased incomes. She substantiated this by citing the example where 54,095 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania smallholder farmers sold fresh root cassava worth US$ 33.5 million and US$ 8.1 million worth of cassava chips, chunks, and cuttings under the CVPP programme, implemented by FCI in 2010.
The Cassava and Sweet potato Investment Symposium successfully highlighted investment opportunities which if, explored and pursued, would
take advantage of the resilience nature of cassava and sweet potato crops to feed thousands of Africans living in dry areas and suffering from drought. FCI has established the AFMA Network platform to incorporate the expertise of the value chain players who attended the symposium, as well as provide a channel for further interaction and learning.
FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond