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Cassava commercialization boosts framers' income

Lagos, Nigeria - Women farmers from several African countries now have access to another sources of income through the cassava value addition chain programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) tagged 'Unleashing the Power of Cassava (UpoCA)', according to a release from the Ibadan-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

'Now we can fulfil our financial obligations to educate our children and improve our livelihoods,” Marie Borbor, a member of the Tongea Women's Development Association in Sierra Leone, one of the beneficiaries said. “We will do all within our power to sustain the MPC as a viable asset. Long live the American people,' she added.

The statement said the project, which was being implemented in seven African countries - Nigeria, DR Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Sierra Leone - by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, had benefited thousands of farmers in these countries.

The Tongea Women farmers in Sandeyalu community are happy the USAID project located at Sandeyalu, 486 km from Freetown, was overrun by rebels in 1991.

The entire population of nearly 4,000 people took refuge in camps in Kenema where they lived for over 10 years as internally displaced persons (IDPs) until the war ended in 2002.

Interactions in the camp brought the Sandeyalu people together to form a formidable association called Tongea Women's Development Association comprising of 54 women and four men. It was named after one of the three mountain peaks overlooking their home township called Tongea.

The group initially raised funds through “coping mechanisms,” such as cutting and selling firewood and soap making as IDPs in Kenema.

The statement said with the advent of the IITA-UPoCA project and subsequent inauguration of a Microprocessing Centre (MPC), cassava was now an added financial window of opportunity to thousands of farmers.

Incomes from USAID projects such as UPoCA have helped the people of Sandeyalu in rebuilding their community.

'We are very happy to partner with you in all you have accomplished in these years. We are very happy to be your partner. Not too many years ago, this town was in ruins but, now, look at what you have accomplished. We are very proud to work with you,” the United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone Michael S. Owen said while handing over the keys of the IITA-UPoCA-built cassava microprocessing center to the Tongea women farmers.

Since 2009, IITA-UPoCA scientists have opened up more than five hectares of their land for cassava cultivation and distributing over 2,500 bundles of improved cassava varieties to more than 500 cassava farmers.

The programme manager of IITA-UPoCA, Braima James, explained that in March this year, 60 women and eight men received hands-on training in cassava processing, product development, and packaging in Sandeyalu town.

The statement said the success story of IITA-UPoCA was not limited to Sierra Leone alone.

It transcends and cuts across other countries across Africa. In Malawi, the project, among other activities revived a moribund starch factory - the first in that country.

Besides, thousands of farmers benefited from improved cassava cuttings, training and capacity building for processors.

The situation in Nigeria was no different as the project linked up processors to farmers for steady production/supply of cassava roots, provided improved cuttings, training and also helped build the capacities of farmers and processors.

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