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Former AGRA President Jane Karuku while delivering the key note address during the Cassava & Sweet Potato Investment Symposium emphasized the various technological options now available in enhancing commercialization of the two crops.
Using modern technology, she acknowledged that Farm Concern International, together with partners and with funding from AGRA, will venture into value addition of the cassava and sweet potato for production of animal feeds and industrial starch.
This will see the two roots moved through a process of production, processing, and marketing in an even greater effort to improve food security and enhance livelihoods by increased incomes. She also highlighted the milestones that FCI had achieved in the last three years of joint intervention in livelihood enhancement namely: nearly doubling the targeted number of farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to over 54000 within 214 commercial processing villages during phase one of the project, increasing cassava yields from 5 metric tones to 9 metric tones per acre in each targeted household, facilitating fresh root cassava sales worth USD 35.5 million and USD 8.1 million of cassava chips, chunks and cuttings, and the development of a cassava chipper that reduced the average drying period of cassava from 7 to 2 days.
While these gains are not being realized due to “poor farmer organization for commercial production, lack of industry-wide integrated value chain, low productivity, and limited information on released varieties and understanding of good agronomical practices” Ms Karuku believes that through the partnership with FCI and other market players, this situation can change. ‘The challenge to the development world is that players do not work together, by connecting the dots since everybody is busy in their own world and nobody seems to be talking to each other. If all were to join the dots and form a strand of interconnected strings, then challenges of farmers productivity for Cassava in East Africa would be as high as that one in Nigeria’ said Jane Karuku.
Currently, Nigeria is the highest producer of Cassava in the African continent and has made tremendous strides in Cassava commercialization and processing into starch and other related products, the post harvest losses are managed and marketing issues have been addressed. Other Countries like Mozambique, Ghana have made progress towards cassava utilization through supply, quantity and price sustainability. To move forward, stakeholders including farmers, processors, researchers, buyers and other players within the Cassava industry need not only to think outside the box, but ultimately throw away the box and return to the drawing table to redesign interactive strategies that will result in increased cassava production and utilization within the Country.
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.