Govt launches sh72b cassava project

THE Government has launched a $30m (sh72b) project to promote food security through sustainable cassava production in the country.

The project is also aimed at improving peoples’ incomes and promoting commercial farming.

The project coordinator, George Lukwago, said Uganda would lead regional research in cassava through the regional centre of excellence.
“Uganda is providing leadership in cassava research that will take the East African countries to the levels of world class success stories,” Lukwago said.

The five-year project will be implemented by the National Agricultural Advisory and Research Organisation (NARO) through the agriculture ministry.

Funded through a World Bank loan, the project will also be implemented under the Eastern Africa agricultural productivity programme (EAAPP).

Under the EAAPP project, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia have received $30m each to promote cassava, dairy, rice and wheat growing on a commercial scale.

The cassava centre of excellence, one of the components of the project, was recently launched by the agriculture minister, Hope Mwesigye, at the national crops resources research instituite at Namulonge in Kampala.

“This is the time to increase local production and safeguard our communities from hunger and unproductive livelihoods,” Mwesigye said.

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Training to reduce post-harvest cassava losses

The small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) in Dar es Salaam has initiated a training programme for cassava farmers aimed at adding value and reducing post harvest losses.

Speaking to this paper recently in Dar es Salaam, the SIDO regional manager Hamwel Meena, said the programme trains farmers on adding value to the crop hence reduce post harvest losses and poverty.

It was not easily established how much is lost for the cassava crop during post harvest period nationally, but all the country crops losses amount to between 35 to 40 percent.

“We are training farmers how to preserve cassava in a modern way in order to add value to the crop and reduce post harvest losses,” he said.

He said they train farmers on how to refine cassava for value addition and hence enable the farmers to get more money than when selling the crop in unprocessed form.

Meena said the price of fresh cassava from a farm is quiet different compared to the preserved one.

He said already SIDO has trained cassava farmers in Mvuti, Ilala District where they have started to process the crop.

Todate at least 15 groups of farmers have already received training provided between December last year and January this year.

"However, for this new technology to be beneficial, medium and large-scale investors need to get involved in exploiting cassava as a source of industrial raw material and not just as a food crop," he added.

Industries in Tanzania can consume up to 47,000 tonnes of raw cassava in form of high quality cassava flour, starch and cassava chips that can substitute expensive imports in breweries, textiles, food, adhesives, bakeries, and animal feed mills.

Cassava is highly marketable raw material but the transition of the crop to an industrial commodity is greatly constrained because its processing is in the hands of small-scale entrepreneurs, according to agricultural experts.

Speaking to this paper, one of the farmer identified as Hasan Mjopeka, said they have been motivated by the ready market for cassava flour.

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Cassava farming gains ground

A growing number of farmers with idle lands in southern Negros are looking forward to earning extra income from planting cassava or “balanghoy,” as Ginebra San Miguel Inc. accelerated its program encouraging cassava farming in unproductive areas throughout the island.

Representatives of GSMI recently explained the program during a visit to farmers from Siaton and Bayawan City in southern Negros Oriental, saying that Ginebra is specifically tapping idle lands to provide income and livelihood opportunities in the areas with the company as the guaranteed market for the produce.

The program also promotes sustainable agriculture by training farmers on sound crop production and management practices including soil conservation.

Speaking before officers of the Lapay Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi Purpose Cooperative, and the Siaton Federation of Farmer Cooperatives, GSMI’s head for Advocacy, Joel Guevara, said Negros was the hands down choice for propagating the crop being the site of the company’s distillery – Distileria Bago - which uses both dried cassava chips and molasses as raw material for its alcohol production.

Due to the lack of supply and quality of chips, the company is presently sourcing its supply from Mindanao, Thailand and Vietnam. Its Starch Milk Plant alone requires four million kilos of chips a month.

To date, over a hundred farmers from Calatrava, Cauayan, Sipalay City and Hinoba-an in Negros Occidental already entered into an agreement with Ginebra San Miguel through the company’s accredited assemblers.

Those from Basay, Bayawan and Siaton in Negros Oriental are set to sign separate PPA agreements, Guevara said.

Under the scheme called “Production and Purchase Agreement,” farmers plant, harvest and process cassava into dried chips. GSMI’s assembler, in turn, provides them with free cassava planting materials, and guarantees to buy the chips at a minimum floor price which is set prior to actual planting.

Should the prevailing market price for dried cassava chips be higher than the agreed minimum on price by harvest time, farmers shall give the assembler the “Right of First Refusal,” the first option to buy their chips at the prevailing market price. If the assembler waives this right, the farmers can then sell their produce to the open market.

Farmers may also opt to sell their cassava chips directly to GSMI as a last option. Ginebra currently buys dried cassava chips at P8 per kilo delivered to its distillery in Bago City.

Cassava, also known as “balanghoy”, is a perennial root crop grown throughout the country for food, animal feeds and alcoholic drinks, among others. It is widely adaptable to varying weather and environmental conditions such as typhoons and droughts.

GSMI has planted the popular Golden Yellow variety and industrial-grade KU 50 and Rayong 5 in some 160 hectares of idle lands in eight demonstration farms.

These farms are located in Victorias, Bago, Pontevedra, Talisay, San Carlos, Candoni and San Vicente in Guimaras island. Average yield of the industrial grade varieties in these demo farms are at 20,000 kilos per hectare.

Government agencies supporting Ginebra San Miguel in the program are the departments of Agrarian Reform and Agriculture.

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Expects Over 15,000 Tonnes of Cassava Harvest

The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), expects a large harvest after the recent expansion of its cassava farm located in the Eastern Province.

Brig. Gen. Alex Ibambasi, the CEO of RDF's new production arm, Agro Processing Industries Ltd, explained the expansion.

"We have expanded and added over 600 hectares and we now have a total of 1,400 hectares," Ibambasi said adding that harvest begins next month.

"We expect a minimum of 15,000 tonnes but it could go up to 19,000. We will sell it. We will not process it because, currently, we don't have processing plants," Ibambasi said.

The cassava project in employs over 500 people.

Beans are also planted within the cassava plantations.

In Gabiro, on a 2,000-hectare farm, about 4,000 tonnes were recently harvested.

Ibambasi said that they now plan to plant soya beans on 2,000 hectares in addition to 2,000 hectares of beans.

"We also have about 100 hectares of pineapples that have just been planted. We have 10 coffee washing stations, all over the country, and we will start buying coffee from growers, next week. We target to get 500 tonnes of green coffee."

Agro Processing Industries Ltd also has a big plan for silk production (raising silkworms).

"We are in the process of building silk rearing houses so that we can export silk, in the near future," Ibambasi said.

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New Cassava Factory Nears Completion

A new cassava processing plant in Ruhango district, worth Rwf5billion, is expected to boost economic activity, once complete in September.

The plant will have the capacity to process 250 tonnes of raw cassava and produce 60 tonnes of cassava flour on a daily basis.

Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) is funding the project.

According to Jack Kayonga, the BRD Managing Director, the state-of the-art facility will benefit both the residents and the country's economy

"The factory will increase the residents' incomes and provide market for the local cassava farmers," Kayonga said.

"This is a step towards development and will enable Rwanda to compete in the regional market and reduce dependence on imported cassava products," he added.

Kayonga noted that it's the duty of the bank to propel such development programs, which have been set by the government.

The Local leaders noted that the plant will buy Cassava from farmers in other districts, including Ruhango, Kamonyi, Bugesera and Nyanza.

Vitali Rwibasira, a representative of cassava farmers noted that once completed, the factory will bring a smile to farmers who had in the past lost hope in cassava production due to lack market.

He also noted that business and trade in the community will be boosted and social welfare will improve.

The Cassava plant will create 68 full time jobs and many other temporary ones.

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