A cassava processing innovation introduced by Farm Concern International (FCI) now reduces cassava chunks drying time from seven to two days during sunny periods. This saves time especially for the women who are involved in household cassava processing and drying.

Traditionally, cassava processing technologies use rudimentary processing methods that are often very time-consuming and laborious. This is a case in Kenya where the roots are processed into local products such as chips, flour, and gari among others. Therefore, designing and developing effective and simple processing machines and utilization techniques greatly increases labor efficiency, incomes and living standards of cassava farmers and the urban poor as well as enhances reduction of cassava roots wastage and spoilage.

Cassava shelf-life

Upon harvesting, cassava starchy roots undergo rapid physiological deterioration within 24-72 hours that renders them unpalatable and unmarketable. In addition, the roots are bulky with about 70% moisture content, hence transportation of the tubers to urban markets is difficult and expensive. The roots and leaves also contain varying amounts of cyanide which is toxic to humans and animals, while the raw cassava roots and uncooked leaves are unpalatable.

Therefore, processing cassava into various forms helps increase the shelf-life of the products from 72 hours to 12 months, facilitates transportation and marketing opportunities, reduces cyanide content and improves palatability. The nutritional status of cassava can also be improved through fortification with other protein-rich crops. Processing will also reduce food losses and stabilize seasonal fluctuations in the supply of the crop.

Farm Concern International set out to commercialize and process cassava at village level for food security and to promote the commodity into industrial value chains for improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers in three countries. FCI reached out to over 54,000 farmers in Makueni and Busia in Kenya; Jinja, Buyende in Uganda and Meru in Tanzania. 

Cassava processing procedures vary depending on products, which range from simple processing procedures (peeling and boiling) to complicated processing procedures (gari). The procedures involve several steps such as peeling, grating, pressing, fermenting, sifting and roasting. But processing of fresh cassava roots into storable products such as chips is one of the critical components under the programme.

FCI in partnership with equipment fabricators from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania designed and developed simple cassava processing chippers ranging from mobile Kijiji (mounted on a motorbike), diesel driven motorized (with wheels), petrol driven motorized to electrical and manual chippers with a capacity of 15-20MT, 25-30MT, 10-15MT, 4-5MT and 0.5MTS–1MT per day, respectively. 

The various categories of cassava chippers were distributed to the Commercial Villages (CV) and Village Processing Units (VPUs) strategically set-up across the three countries: Tangakona (Busia) and Mbuvo (Makueni) in Kenya, Mbuguni (Arusha) in Tanzania and Buyende in Uganda. The VPUs are supported by a number of micro-processing innovations carried out at a household level by families. Each VPU includes a solar dryer, a chipper, a grater, a milling machine and other accessories. 

The sustainability of the VPU is anchored on organizing smallholder farmers into CVs with enhanced governance systems which enables farmers participating in cassava processing to contribute funds for fuel and chipper maintenance from their savings based on the volumes of cassava processed. The revenue generated is being used for the operations and maintenance of the processing unit

In addition, demo VPUs are used as training resources through farmer exchange programs and internal skill enhancement course sessions which play a catalytic role in promoting cassava processing and drying technologies by the smallholder farmers in the commercial villages. 

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FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.