‘How value chain project links farmers to industrial processors’
Professor Kolawole Adebayo is the Project Coordinator of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) projects in Nigeria and other countries in Africa. He speaks with FEMI IBIROGBA on the progress recorded, ranging from technology, market development to job creation, among other issues.
In what ways has Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) project improved on cassava development in Nigeria and other countries?
The Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) is currently in the second phase, which will end in March, 2019. It is operational in five countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda and the fund for C:AVA project is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have six primary partners and more than 78 other partners in the five countries. So far, the largest out of these five countries is Nigeria and almost 50% of the target in the project is Nigeria. The big goal of the project, when it started in 2014, was to help create systems where smallholder farmers would be able to sell up to two million tonnes of fresh roots into new cassava value chains and not the traditional ones.
How have you been doing this?
The new cassava value chains include high quality cassava flour, which is used in wheat replacement. There is cassava starch, which replaces imported corn starch. There is also ethanol, is used in gin and wine industries. Then, there is a big market in the livestock sector and the beer sector in some of these countries. The cassava flour is also used as a glue extender for making plywood or in the paper board industries for making cartons and other paper packs. So, there are all these uses of cassava that are not currently prominent. The ones that everybody knows are garri, lafun and fufu. So, what we’ve been doing is working along the cassava value chains with people who are adding value to create more demand for fresh roots.
There are three categories of potential users. The first are the very large enterprises like Atlantic Allied Distilleries in Ota and Matna Foods in Akure. They use large quantities of cassava to produce their products and when we say large, we are talking about 240 metric tonnes per day, which are eight trailer loads daily. If we are to harvest that, it covers eight to 10 hectares. And one hectare is two and a half acres of land to harvest. And, only a few smallholder farmers have more than one acre of land. Those are the large enterprises we talk about. All we need to do is to work with their raw supply chain managers to incorporate smallholder farmers into the chains. Rather than expecting 30 tonnes of fresh roots in one supply, farmers can bring three to four tonnes to the factories.
One of the early experiences we got was that some of these smallholder farmers were not getting a good yield from their cassava farm, which was telling on their profitability. And that is why we have engaged agronomists who are working with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and farmers to promote interventions that will help them to get better yield from their cassava farms.
Because of our demonstrations and training in Akure, Ondo State; Igboora in Oyo State and Abeokuta, Ogun State, farmers can now get a minimum of 30 tonnes per hectare. Some are getting up to 50 tonnes. However, if you are a commercial cassava farmer, whether small or large, and you are getting yields fewer than 20 to 25 tonnes per hectare, you should review your practices. So, we have been working with farmers to get more yield so that when they subscribe to this kind of large factories, they will have more money. That is one level of engagement.
Another level of engagement is with smaller processors; people who have flash driers and are producing two or more tonnes of cassava flour or other composite products that are now getting their way into the supermarket shelves. Those who are producing that will require close to two or three tonnes of fresh cassava roots daily. These people require a lot of inputs, especially engineering expertise, with business-oriented supports. Where should they target their raw material supply? This kind of intervention is what C:AVA does at this level. Nigeria has about 84 factories in this category and many of them are sustainable.
There is another SME category that is still functioning. These people are producing either garri or dried fufu or other different composite products like lafun. They are small or medium enterprises, and they use relatively higher level of technology like drier, roasters, pressers and graters. C:AVA gives the same kind of intervention mentioned above to them too, helping them to target exportation. So, if you are producing packaged garri, we can help you to get target markets. Some of them have issues with registration with the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organistion of Nigeria (SON), but we also do help them get this sorted out.
When improved yields are available, some of them have challenges selling their yields because they are not large enough to attract those large buyers. So, we intervene at this stage to improve their processing capacities. We also help them to access new markets.
End users in the biscuit, cake, pastry, health, plywood, and wine sectors are also enlightened on the available materials and technologies of processing. We replicate these services in all the countries we operate. The plywood sector is mostly operational in Ghana. The beer sector is mostly operational in Uganda, where you have breweries which have adapted cassava substrate in their brand.
How would you quantify employment generation in the cassava value chains?
This is something that has always been difficult to quantify, but you can calculate from the numbers factories that we have. For instance, there are six large factories that use 240 tonnes of cassava daily, but each of these factories will not employ less than 25 people (this is just an estimate). In Nigeria, there are 84 small and medium scale cassava processors, and each of these we will have no fewer than five full staffers to operate the machines, to provide electricity, etc. If you multiply five by 84, again it becomes an estimate.
In the community processing groups that we have all over Nigeria, there is no group that is fewer than 20 in number. These are just direct beneficiaries. We are not counting the number of farmers who are supplying cassava into these factories. We are not counting the indirect value chains operators like the transporters who transport from farms, then from factories to the end users. But as a project, we can only tell you the number that we estimate.
Are you working with fabricators and promoting indigenous technologies?
This is actually a big strength of C:AVA; and as C:AVA is going to wind up next year, this is one of the areas we are very much afraid of what happens when C:AVA leaves the scene. Who will continue handling the job. It is critical. For instance, the flash drying technology is purely a Nigerian technology, and many institutions like International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Root Crop Research Institute in Umudike, FUNAAB and many other fabricators have made a lot of backstopping effort to improve the quality and the packaging of the equipment that we now export to countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Mali from Nigeria.
Actually, when we started this exportation of a thing around 2010-2011, many people in Apapa port did not believe that we could export equipment from Nigeria, because they were used to equipment coming from outside the country to Nigeria. And I can tell you today that 90% of graters, pressers and peelers that we use in all those enterprises in other participating African countries are made in Nigeria.
Bean drier, for instance, was developed by our partner at the Ghana Food Research Institute, in collaboration with the National Research Institute and FUNAAB. Professor Latif Sanni, C:AVA Country Manager in Nigeria, exports technology.
Now, for those who want to invest in cassava processing and cultivation, what advice or requirement do they need?
I think the first thing they need is knowledge, particularly if you are in it for commercial purposes. Marketing is another strong element for anybody that is going into it. Having considered that, the production plan should be made to meet the demand as required.
So, spend your first one year under someone or experts that are in the cassava processing or production. There are a lot of elements needed to be learnt for sometimes. Teaching cannot make you a successful farmer, but classroom teaching is essential to start and many people don’t have it. The next thing is considering who will buy the product and what quantity.
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