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Creating more markets for cassava

The Cassava Value Chain Development Project has again inaugurated a cassava processing center in Sierra Leone, bringing the number of processing centers commissioned under the project in that country to six, thanks to the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC)the initiator and financier of the project.

The center which is located in Walihun, about eight hours drive from the capital Freetown in the southern part of the country, will help resource poor farmers in that region to process cassava roots to several products including gari, and fufu.

It will also ease the pains associated with the traditional or manual system of cassava processing, says Mr. Olu John, President of the National Association of Farmers in Sierra Leone.

In December 2009, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)the implementing agency, and the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), commissioned five cassava processing sites to ease the burden of processing, create additional markets for cassava products and more importantly generate wealth in local communities through increased cassava production.

The five centers were Gbotima processing center in Bo District; Njala Agricultural Research Center, in Moyamba District; Adamaris cassava processing center in Bombali District; UPWARDS cassava processing center in Port Loko District; and another center in Waterloo in the Western Rural District.

John said farmers were glad over these projects but added, we request for more to process and boost cassava production.

Beneficiaries of the project commended IITA-CFC West Africa for putting the project in their community.

Mr. Samuel Konde, leader of Walihun Farmers Association, said the project would turn around the fortunes of cassava farmers in the community.

We are happy because help has finally come, he said.

In Sierra Leone, cassava is a key crop because of its ease of cultivation and culinary qualities such as straightforwardness of preparation. Usually, the roots are either boiled or eaten in raw form. Cassava leaves are also a delicacy that is served with several dishes.

The project, which seeks to diversify and make more products from cassava, will allow farmers access to more money, says Prof. Sanni Lateef, Project Coordinator, IITA-CFC West Africa.

Our project beneficiaries now have the opportunity to process quality cassava products and make more money, he stressed.

Lateef called on beneficiaries to jealously monitor and to tap the enormous potential of the enterprises.

According to him, IITA, the Food and Agriculture Organization, SLARI and other partners will continue to train stakeholders in areas such as effective hygienic practices, equipment maintenance, and enterprise management to ensure that beneficiaries get sustainable income and nutritious foods.

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