Cassava turns into source of cash

Nicholas Olum has been running a fabricating business for many years but it is only recently that his patience paid off— he was contracted to fabricate cassava-processing machines by two organisations that plan to change the fortunes of cassava farmers.

At Sh60,000 for every machine, not many cassava farmers could afford it.

Cassava is almost exclusively grown by small-scale farmers in Kenya with little disposable income.

In areas where it grows, the cooperative movement is weak, dashing the possibilities of group-owned small processing machines.

But Mr Olum’s change in fortunes has come from a new initiative that is helping farmers to grow cassava exclusively for semi-processing.

It is funded and co-ordinated by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Kenya Agriculture Research Institute and Farm Concern International.

The semi-processed cassava is sold to cattle feed manufacturers.

The aim is to use the dried chips as a raw material, together with maize, to make cattle feeds.

Feed manufacturers said their main raw material, maize, has become scarce and expensive, raising the cost of the animal feeds.

Maize is Kenya’s staple food so there is competition from humans for the same grain.

Connecting cassava farmers to feed manufacturers will provide a reliable source of raw materials to the feed industry since the crop is available throughout the year.

Feed manufacturers need consistent quality supply to maintain the feed formula and stabilise prices.

“Our members have been looking for reliable quality and consistent supply of alternative carbohydrate sources. Pressure on maize is forcing us to think of partial substitutes cassava chips will fill this gap,” said Martin Kinoti, Secretary General of the Association of Kenya Feeds Manufacturers.

Most recently, Kenya has suffered poor weather conditions that have resulted in below average production of maize, opting for imports.

While imports are cheaper, the cost of transport, especially from the port of Mombasa makes the imported maize even more expensive than the locally grown variety

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