From chips to flour, cassava offers a lot

Christopher Kkonde (right) displays some of the cassava flour during a farmer’s fair in Kabizi Yard.  Photo/Fred Muzaale

What you need to know:

  • Many people think they can only make ugali out of cassava but one gets mandazis, cakes, crisps, chips and chapati as well. Christopher Kkonde slices the harvested tubers into smaller parts of, say, 5cm each, dries for two to three weeks and, thereafter, grinds into flour which is used to prepare meals such as ugali, doughnuts and porridge.

Kabizi Yard is a sleepy hamlet about 10 kilometres from Jinja Njeru town on the newly tarmacked Buikwe-Katosi route in Nyenga Sub-county. 
The area is mainly known for artisan mining practised by scores of young men and women. Farming is another vibrant activity here, but not preferred by many young people. 
Christopher Kkonde is among the few who have taken to farming and his 15-acre farm hosts cassavas, and other crops such as maize, eggplants, soy beans and sweet potatoes.

Cassava farming 
Cassava is one of his most profitable crops as he and a group of others add value to the produce. The crop sits on two acres and he harvests more than 100 100 kilogramme bags of dried cassava, with a kilogramme (three tubers) going for Shs30,500.
“Some traders from Jinja come to buy the tubers fresh from the farm. They sell to people who boil and eat,” says Kkonde.

Value addition 
The farmer further makes flour from cassava for more income. 
“I hire a grinding machine from our association. I then sell the flour at Shs1,500 per kilogramme,” says Kkonde.
He slices the harvested tubers into smaller parts of, say, 5cm each, dries for two to three weeks and, thereafter, grinds into flour which is used to prepare meals such as cassava ugali, doughnuts and porridge. It can be used to make crisps, Bagiya snack and biscuits too.
Scores of farmers in the region shy away from growing cassava because it takes long to mature, but for Kkonde, the crop brings good fortune.
“I grow cassava and forget it for eight months as I concentrate on other crops. Cassava is rarely attacked by pests too,” he says.
According to Kkonde, cassava requires a well-prepared land and good seeds. A lot of weeding should be done at the initial stages of planting and the crop is drought-resistant.

Invest in quality seeds
The farmer grows cuttings from the stems of recently harvested plants. “I cut 8 inches from the bottom of the stem then slice 10-inch cuttings. I then plant the cuttings every 3 feet in rows that are 3 feet apart. If the soil is dry, the cuttings are planted at 45-degree angle. If the soil is wet, they are planted vertically,” he says.
To harvest, the stem is cut, leaving a stub as a handle to pull the cassava roots out of the ground.

His major challenge is the short post-harvest shelf-life of the freshly harvested cassava. Cassava does well in well-drained sandy loam soils with a pH of between 5.5 to 6.5. It thrives in a temperature of between 250C to 320C and rainfall of between 1,000-1,500mm. However, the crop can survive in dry conditions making it suitable for arid and semi-arid areas.
To defeat the deadly cassava brown streak mosaic disease, the farmer says one should invest in quality seeds.
“When I was beginning, I used Shs50,000 to buy the improved cassava variety nodes. This variety, matures in eight months and has a root yield of 25 tonnes per acre,” he says.