Mechanizing for progress

Mechanization reduces the drudgery usually associated with agricultural activities and increases efficiency on the farm. Since the early 1970s, IITA has been developing and promoting the use of agricultural machinery under various initiatives and projects with support from a myriad of donors, particularly for its cassava transformation agenda.

Mechanization reduces the drudgery usually associated with agricultural activities and increases efficiency on the farm. Since the early 1970s, IITA has been developing and promoting the use of agricultural machinery under various initiatives and projects with support from a myriad of donors, particularly for its cassava transformation agenda.

For example, between 2002 and 2010, IITA implemented the Integrated Cassava Project (ICP) to support Nigeria’s Presidential Initiative on Cassava, under which hundreds of processing centers and fabricating enterprises were established. In 2012, under the USAID-funded project called Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa (UPoCA), IITA and partners met about 15% of the national needs for improved planting materials in the DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Group members working together in constructing raised drying platform.

Continuing the mechanization legacy through SARD-SC

The IITA-led Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project, sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB), picked up where UPoCA left off, upscaling the promotion of the improved varieties chosen by farmers but also adding a focus on mechanization to develop the cassava commodity value chain.

Supporting farmers and youth in Tanzania

To boost postharvest processing in Tanzania, SARD-SC supported the upgrading of the facilities of smallholder processing communities in Zanzibar and Kigoma. In Zanzibar, the project supported the Tuambiwe nini group with construction materials that enabled the group to complete the community cassava processing center (CCPC) which they had started to build. In Kigoma, SARD-SC helped the KIEMA group (in Kibondo District) and Umoja group (in Kakonko District) build community processing centers to produce cassava flour. The project also helped rehabilitate several processing centers in Kigoma, Zanzibar, and Ruvuma (Table 1).

Table 1. Community cassava processing centers rehabilitated under the SARD-SC project in Tanzania.

SARD-SC also financed the construction of a model processing center at Kwembe in Dar es Salaam. The processing center has several components including a processing building, an equipment fabrication workshop, offices, and washrooms. It is equipped with a peeler, grater, chipper, press, sifter, fryer, and hammer mill. The establishment of the Kwembe cassava processing facility created an avenue for youth, particularly the members of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) in Tanzania, to shift from being just repackagers/brokers of high quality cassava flour (HQCF) to actual producers of the value-added product. Initially, the youth packaged and sold HQCF produced by other processors because they did not have access to a processing facility. Today, using the facility, they produce, package, and market their own HQCF under their own Mpishi Mkuu trademark.

Apart from the economic benefits, the processing centers also promoted better quality, safety, and efficiency in producing cassava-derived products.

The introduction of mechanized production and processing techniques by SARD-SC in Tanzania also paved the way for farmers and youth to produce more products derived from cassava roots and cassava flour such as cakes, buns, spicy porridge, titbits, chin chin (snack made of fried stringy cassava), and chicken-cassava pilau (a popular dish in which small-cut cassava is a substitute for rice). These have not only helped to improve nutrition in the communities but also generated additional income.

These technologies have also been scaled out to non-project areas such as in the Namtumbo District in Ruvuma Region where SARD-SC established a processing center equipped with a motorized grater, motorized chipper, manual chipper, and two presses. More than 140 community members have also been trained on mechanized cassava processing and product development.

Helping youth and empowering partners in Zambia

In Zambia, SARD-SC supported the construction of two cassava processing centers: one located at IITA’s Southern Africa Research and Administration Hub (SARAH) campus in Kabangwe, Lusaka Province, and another at the Zambian Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) campus in Mansa, Luapula Province in the northern part of the country. The IITA-SARAH facility was completed in 2016, while the one at ZARI-Mansa is scheduled to be completed and commissioned by the first quarter of 2017.

Both centers are equipped with mechanized cassava graters, pressers, firewood-fuelled fryers, sieving machines, and high-capacity milling machines. They also have offices, workers’ washrooms, loading and drying docks, and a cassava washing bay. Each center can process 5 tons of fresh roots daily into chips and HQCF, among other products.

The cassava processing centers will be used to train youth, particularly members of the Zambia IYA, as well as build the capacity of our national partner, ZARI, on cassava value addition with the longer term goal of spurring the growth of the country’s cassava industry.

Giving cassava communities a boost in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone was one of the core countries of the previous UPoCA project implemented by IITA, which ended in 2013. Continuing the successes of UPoCA, SARD-SC facilitated the construction of four new community cassava processing centers in Kambui, Rogbaneh, and Sewa. While three of these processing centers are currently being supplied with equipment for installation, the Gaindema Community processing center—named the Manenkoh Cassava Farmers’ Factory—has been fully equipped and made operational with the help of ACDI-VOCA/SNAP, a USAID-funded nutrition and food project operating in the northern Tonkolili District.

By the last quarter of 2016, SARD-SC had successfully carried out a 4-day training for 70 project beneficiaries in three key areas: processing machine operation and maintenance (12 men/3 women); cassava product development (5 men/35 women); and governance and business management skills (10 men/5 women).

Bridging the cassava gap in the DR Congo

In DR Congo, the absence of value addition has limited farmers’ opportunities for increasing their income from cassava production. Some of the many challenges faced by cassava producers are limited markets for cassava roots, high postharvest losses, low level of and manual laborbased processing, and lack of diversity in derived products. Ugali and Chikwangue are the only known products from cassava in the country.

However, through its processing component, SARD-SC addressed these challenges by establishing CCPCs in the South-Kivu Province, which was patterned after a model processing center established at the IITA Station in Kalambo. To date, the project has established eight CCPCs in Katana, Kavumu, Mulamba, Kamanyola, Luvungi, Sange, Bunyakiri I, and Bunyakiri 91

II. Each is equipped with a mechanized miller, grater, chipper, and press. The centers are run by CCPC members who are also farmers coming from different farmer groups and who have been trained by SARD-SC on modern cassava production and processing techniques. Each center can process some 3,400 kg of fresh roots into HQCF. As a result of CCPC’s activities, the demand for fresh roots has increased significantly in the areas where the centers are located, stimulating production.

HQCF production by the centers has also stimulated the production of other by-products apart from the traditional Ugali and Chikwangue. In Mulamba, Bunyakiri, Bitale, and Bukavu people have been introduced to other products and are consuming different cassava-based products such as chin-chin, doughnuts, biscuits, cookies, samosa, sausage, cakes, bread, cassava-oatmeal cookies, cassava-butter cookies, and pies. The centers have also been linked to marketing outlets established by members of the IITA-Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs.

The CCPCs have also offered respite to rural unemployment. The eight CCPCs have employed 33 regular employees who receive an average of $50 per month, with some getting as much as $120 per month. At least 200 women are employed every month as casual workers and paid about $1.20 dollars for a 4-hour workday.

The enterprising activities of CCPCs have encouraged private sector actors to join the cassava processing business. Presently, there are three companies (Groupe KABEGO, Ets. JANDA, and APAFED asbl) in South-Kivu that are engaged in cassava processing. The promising agroprocessing business environment has also provided income opportunities for local machine fabricators trained by SARD-SC.

At the IITA-Kalambo Station, SARD-SC established a cassava processing center to produce flour and garri. Through the center, which was built in phases in 2014 and 2015, SARD-SC facilitated the training of five local equipment fabricators, who have also been certified by SARD-SC engineers to fabricate cassava processing machines. Additionally, the project designed, constructed, equipped, and handed over two cassava centers to community members of Sangue and Kavumu in Kalambo.

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