Professor Kolavole Adebayo is the coordinator of the Cassava project: adding value to Africa (C: AVA) in Nigeria and other African countries. He speaks with FEMI IBIROGBA about the progress made: from technology, market development to job creation, among other issues.
How has the Cassava project: adding value to Africa (C: AVA) improved in the development of cassava in Nigeria and other countries?
Cassava: adding value to Africa (C: AVA) is currently in the second phase, which will end in March 2019. It operates in five countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda and in the C: AVA fund, the project is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have six major partners and more than 78 other partners in five countries. Until now, the largest of these five countries is Nigeria, and almost 50% of the target in this project is Nigeria. The main goal of the project, which began in 2014, was to help create systems in which small farmers can sell up to two million tons of fresh roots in new cassava production chains, rather than traditional ones.
How do you do it?
New chains of cassava production include high-quality cassava flour, which is used when replacing wheat. There is a cassava starch that replaces imported corn starch. There is also ethanol, used in the jeans and wine industries. Then in some of these countries there is a large market for livestock and a beer sector. Cassava flour is also used as a glue filler for the production of plywood or in the industry of cardboard cartons for the production of cardboard boxes and other paper packages. So, all this is the use of cassava, which is not currently visible. Everyone that everyone knows is Garry, Lafun and Foo. So, what we have been doing is working on value chains of cassava with people who add value to create more demand for fresh roots.
There are three categories of potential users. The first are such large enterprises as Atlantic Allied Distilleries in Ot and Matna Foods in Akure. They use a large amount of cassava to produce their products, and when we say "big", it is about 240 metric tons per day, which is 8 loads of trailers daily. If we harvest, it covers from 8 to 10 hectares. And one hectare is two and a half hectares of land for harvesting. And only a few small farmers have more than one acres of land. These are large enterprises, of which we speak. All we need to do is work with their raw supply chain managers to include small farmers in the chain. Instead of expecting 30 tons of fresh roots in one product, farmers can bring up to three tons in factories.
One of the early experiences we received was that some of these small farmers did not receive a good income from their cassava farm, which talked about its profitability. That's why we involve agronomists who work with some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and farmers to promote interventions that will help them to get higher returns from their cassava farms.
Because of our demonstrations and training in Akure, Ondo; Igbo in Oyo State and Abeokuta, Ogun, now farmers can get at least 30 tons per hectare. Some of them receive up to 50 tons. However, if you are a commercial cassava farmer, small or large, and you get a yield of less than 20-25 tons per hectare, you should reconsider your methods. So, we work with farmers to get more crops so that when they subscribe to such large plants, they will have more money. This is one level of interaction.
Another level of interaction is with smaller processors; people who have flash dryers, and produce two or more tons of cassava flour or other composite products that now penetrate the supermarket shelves. Those who produce this will consume about two or three tons of fresh cassava roots daily. These people require a lot of resources, especially engineering knowledge, with business support. Where should they orient their raw materials? Such interference is what C: AVA does at this level. Nigeria has about 84 factories in this category, and many of them are sustainable.
There is another category of SMEs that is still functioning. These people produce either fumes, or dried fufu or other various composite products, such as lafun. These are small or medium-sized enterprises, and they use a relatively higher level of technology, such as a dryer, roasters, clamping machines and floats. C: AVA gives the same intervention mentioned above, and helps them to orient themselves on exports. So, if you produce a garry package, we can help you get target markets. Some of them have problems registering with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) and the Institute of Standards of Nigeria (SON), but we also help them to understand this.
When better crops are available, some of them have problems selling their yields, because they are not large enough to attract these large buyers. Thus, we intervene at this stage to improve their production capacities. We also help them to access new markets.
End users of cookies, cakes, confectionery, health, plywood and wine sectors are also educated on accessible materials and processing technologies. We copy these services in all countries in which we work. The plywood sector mainly operates in Ghana. The beer sector mainly operates in Uganda, where you have breweries that have adapted the cassava substrate in your brand.
How would you quantify employment in the value chains of cassava?
This is something that has always been difficult to quantify, but you can calculate from the number of factories that we have. For example, there are six large plants that use 240 tons of cassava per day, but less than 25 people will work in each of these factories (this is just an estimate). In Nigeria, there are 84 small and medium-sized cassava processors, and each of them we will have at least five full-time staff to manage machines, provide electricity, etc. D. If you multiply five by 84, again this becomes an estimate.
In the community treatment groups that we have throughout Nigeria, there is no group that has less than 20 people. They are just direct beneficiaries. We do not consider the number of farmers who supply cassava to these factories. We do not consider operators of the indirect value chain as transport workers who move from farms, and then from factories to end users. But as a project, we can tell only about how much we estimate.
Do you work with producers and promote local technology?
This is actually a large force C: AVA; and since C: AVA is about to finish its next year, this is one of those areas in which we are very much afraid of what happens when C: AVA leaves the scene. Who will continue to work on this work. It is important. For example, flash drying technology is exclusively Nigerian technology, and many institutions such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Institute for Root Research in Umudik, FUNAAB and many other manufacturers have provided much support to improve the quality and packaging of equipment, which we are now exporting to countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Mali from Nigeria.
In fact, when we started this export around 2010-2011, many people at the port of Apapa did not believe that we could export equipment from Nigeria because they were used for equipment coming from outside the country to Nigeria. And today I can say that 90% of the patches, clamps and cleaners that we use in all these enterprises in other participating African countries are produced in Nigeria.
For example, a plywood dryer was developed by our partner at the Ghana Food Research Institute in collaboration with the National Research Institute and FUNAAB. Professor Latif Sunny, C: AVA Project Manager in Nigeria, exports technology.
Now, for those who want to invest in the processing and cultivation of cassava, what recommendations do they need?
I think that the first thing they need is knowledge, especially if you are in it for commercial purposes. Marketing is another strong element for anyone who enters it. Considering this, it is necessary to prepare a production plan to meet demand as necessary.
So, spend your first year on someone or experts who are in the processing or production of cassava. There are many elements that you need to study sometimes. Teaching can not make you a successful farmer, but teaching in class is important to start, and many people do not. The next question is who will buy the product and how much.