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Africa 100 project cash to support new Cassava project

The NFU and FARM-Africa have chosen a fledging project to receive cash from the Africa 100 Appeal. With funds reaching almost £200,000 one final push is being sought from the agriculture industry before a cheque is handed over to the charity in October.

Launched in the wake of droughts and the resulting poor availability of food in Kenya, the Cassava Project, operated by established charity FARM-Africa, aims to increase productivity on subsistence farms across the country and put an end to food insecurity for thousands of families.

The year-long fund raising appeal, launched as part of the NFU's centenary celebrations, has seen charity bikes rides, golf days, generous donations from industry supporters, and the livestock sector in particular, raising a phenomenal amount of cash. This effort is more poignant given the current economic situation and the uphill battle faced by appeal co-ordinator, and head of NFU Communications Sarah Whitelock, as she explains:

"We started the appeal in July 2008 when many farmers were enduring the expense of a long, wet summer, which has been closely followed by a global, economic down-turn and the resulting recession. However, the farming industry has pulled out all the stops to support Africa 100 and we are extremely grateful."

Cassava has a short shelf life so the project will also fund two new factories to turn the vegetable into dried chips and flour. This will increase the flexibility of the crop giving it a new market in local food industries and potential as an animal feed - a real boost for livestock farmers.

Ms Whitelock said: "Cassava is an important staple vegetable in both Uganda and Kenya as it has the potential to generate food security within a very short time. It grows well in marginal areas which means it can be cultivated where droughts are frequent and famine is a recurring menace.

"There were problems in the late 1980s and early 90s with disease which spread and devastated cassava crops in large parts of East Africa. Now, thanks to the vital work of FARM-Africa, a new disease-resistant variety has been introduced. This, and the addition of new, basic farming methods, has seen yields increase there from three to 15 tonnes per hectare. This has seen a reversal in the fortunes of farmers struggling to produce enough food to feed their families. Not only are they now self-sufficient but they also have enough produce left over to sell at the local market.

"I visited Kenya last year to see for myself how FARM-Africa helps these farmers and their families. Besides the impressive economic improvements, these projects also increase social cohesiveness. Household incomes are being used to improve housing and pay for school fees, as well as being invested in a range of other income-generating enterprises to benefit the whole community.

"Having witnessed the tremendous way FARM-Africa supports farmers and transforms their lives I am convinced that the Africa 100 Appeal has been a thoroughly worthwhile cause. It will make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of East African farmers and their families and is a tribute to the generosity of all the donors who have supported us over the past 12 months."

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