Cassava is identified as one of the emerging market oriented commodities will improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Uganda if it is grown and processed as high quality product to attract industrial market potential.
Cassava is considered a food security crop because it can grow in several climatic conditions including areas that experience prolonged dry spells.
Commercialisation of high value products from it can be done at a small scale with high quality cassava flour being the main product traded.
This flour can be used to make glue and paper board and also as an ingredient in making ethanol.
Dr Ephrahim Nuwamanya, a scientist at NaCRRI’s Nutritional and Bio-analytical Laboratory, explains that his team has established that it can be fermented to make ethanol, which is used in laboratories for various purposes.
High quality cassava flour is also used by pharmaceutical industries in the making of tablets.
Africa Innovations Institute, which is based Kampala, is currently promoting a project called Cassava Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), which develops high quality cassava flour so as to improve livelihoods of farmers growing the crop as direct beneficiaries.
The $200,000 (Shs709m) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project is also being implemented in other countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi.
In Uganda, the beneficiaries are from Budaka, Kibuku, Pallisa, BuKedea, Kumi, Soroti, Serere, Ngora, Oyam, Kole and Lira.
Farmers in these districts are given the Nase14 variety and sensitised on good post-harvest handling methods.
Dr Francis Alacho Quruma, the project’s country manager, noted that farmers have an advantage of earning increased income if they maintain quality of cassava flour for industrial processing.
Since the implementation of this initiative, the sale of high value cassava flour increased in a year with a total of 805.3 tonnes of high quality cassava sold across various sectors.
The breakdown was as follows: biscuits processing industries (two tonnes), paper board (177 tonnes), rural bakeries (275.1 tonnes) and agri food composite flours (388.9 tonnes).
The aim of promoting high quality cassava flour is to convince farmers to process it as an industrial product.
Brewing industries, for instance, are already working in collaboration with farmers because they need the product as a brewing product.
“In Uganda, 10 million litres of ethanol is being processed by breweries annually with imported raw material yet starch from cassava can be processed to glucose and sucrose, which can be used by these industries including pharmaceuticals,” Dr Quruma points out.
Farmers processing high value cassava products stand high chance of readily available market for their produce.
“We link them to factories which make confectionaries and bread, as well as those making paper boards from cassava glue where most of the raw material is imported from India,” he explained.
In this initiative, the key thing to consider is supply of clean cassava stock to farmers to ensure challenges of cassava mosaic virus and cassava brown streak diseases are avoided.
There are several farmers who have been certified to multiply clean stock of Nase14 obtained from the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge for multiplication.
These farmers are spread out in various districts in Eastern and Northern Uganda.
The director of Africa Innovations Institute, Prof George William Otim Nape noted that research work at the institute is aimed at impacting of the farming communities with the main focus on food security.
The reason is that the value chain is key component of the activities.
He pointed out that countries like India and China are producing 60 to 80 metric tonnes per hectare yet Uganda is producing about 30 metric tonnes per hectare yet the demand for quality cassava is so high.
Safe to grow
“We are experiencing varying conditions in the climate. One of the crops which will be safe to grow under these varying conditions is cassava. This because where there is hailstorm, drought and flooding, farmers will still be in position to harvest cassava”.
Farmers have been trained in proper methods of drying cassava for quality flour. There is a cassava drier facility in Soroti where farmers learn the basic practices to be applied.
In Apac, a solar drying rack was set up at Adyela Mixed Farm where farmers take their cassava for quality drying. There is another facility established in Abuket village, Serere District.
The recommended mean moisture content for quality dried cassava is 7.04 per cent with the minimum being five per cent