In this article, Gloria Essilfie writes a detailed account of the post-harvest system of cassava in Ghana. Based on a case study on gari processing, Essilfie documents the different stages of the production chain and identifies hotspots for post-harvest loss. She finds that losses are minimal during the actual gari production chain and recommends that further research to determine on-farm losses (during the wet season especially) and at the level of the distributors and markets. In terms of research and training capacity for (cassava) post-harvest science, technology and innovation, Essilfie's account of (para-) governmental and academic institutions shows Ghana possesses sufficient and adequate resources to tackle the losses from field to market. Essiflies also highlights the fact that the profitability of the gari value chain in Ghana is dependent on the cassava varieties grown by farmers: higher yielding, pest resistant and starchier varieties can prevent monetary losses at the processing stage.Finally, Essilfie explains that Ghana's Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASEDEP II) provides for specific interventions in the cassava production and processing sector that would consolidate the value chain, guarantee food security and economic growth. For example, FASEDEP II lists variety improvement, up-to-date knowledge/protocols for extension, machinery and equipment, private sector participation and market access as priorities. Specifically for the gari processing plant under study, Essilfie recommends that: farmers be taught to use high yielding varieties and improved cultivation techniques; processors be trained in meeting hygiene and food safety standards for both the local and export markets; industrial extension services be strengthened as well to better guide the processors; links to international markets and overseas branding be developed and sustained.
The Cassava Value Chain Roadmap was developed from the proceedings of a national workshop which was held as an off shoot of the regional workshop Adding value to local foods for food and nutrition security: myth or strategic option – Leveraging the research, innovation and entrepreneurship network, 26-29 November 2012. Industry experts, researchers and practitioners delivered key presentations on various aspects of the industry. Gaps, and proposed solutions or options were identified for moving the industry forward.[CTA REPORTS: ADDING VALUE TO LOCAL FOODS FOR FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY: MYTH OR STRATEGIC OPTION]
Is cassava the crop of the future for food and nutrition security and industrial development? Not unless, we increase investments in science, technology and innovation. An interesting presentation on the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st century (GCP 21) by Dr Claude Fauquet at CTA Headquarters on 28 March 2013 triggered further reflection on the need for a coordinated approach to cassava development. Dr Fauquet indicated that 105 countries produce cassava; 50% of which are in Africa where surface area is almost double that of Asia and Latin America. However, yield is lower (10t/ha) as compared to 12t/ha and 19t/ha in Latin America and Asia, respectively. What is the role of African universities and research organisations in driving the research and development agenda for cassava on the continent? Which organisations are studying future consumer and industry trends for cassava? Which are leading programmes on: (i) documenting and characterising cassava landraces, farmer knowledge and practices; (ii) the performance of various varieties and landraces under changing climatic conditions including for drought and pest resistance; (iii) new product development for food and other industrial uses; (iv) increasing yield potential; (v) standardising height of plants (dwarf varieties) and size of roots to support industry expansion for food products, starch or animal feed etc.? Work is going on at some leading international centres and in collaboration with national R&D organisations to produce virus-free varieties through genetic engineering and on rapid multiplication but while these are critical research areas, the success of a cassava ‘green revolution’ in Africa or world-wide requires interlinked thinking, an innovation systems approach, foresight, investments in science and engineering, an enabling policy and institutional framework and visionary leadership from scientists/academicians, policy/governments and the private sector including farmers.
The strategic position of cassava in the food and farming systems of millions of rural households, especially in Africa, is highlighted. Key issues in cassava agronomy, especially regarding planting materials and productivity per unit area are discussed. The development of improved varieties as well as status and constraints in the cassava seed distribution system in Nigeria are emphasised. Also, development of the technology of rapid multiplication of improved cassava varieties is discussed with special regard to reasons for and processes of the technology’s use by farmers. A case study of the adoption and competence of use among farmers in a cassava-growing location in Southern Nigeria is reported. Essentially, the opportunities and constraints associated with the technology in the agricultural innovation processes of cassava are examined and questions raised as to its suitability for up-scaling, given the challenges in obtaining substantial quantities of roots.
To enhance the adoption of soil conserving practices and improve the sustainability of cassava production, a farmer participatory research (FPR) approach was used to develop not only the best soil conservation practices, but also to test new varieties, fertilization and cropping systems that tend to produce greater short-term benefits. The FPR methodology was initially developed in 2-3 sites each in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, but has now extended to about 99 villages in Thailand, Vietnam and China. The methodology includes the conducting of RRAs in each site, farmer evaluation of a wide range of practices shown in demonstration plots, FPR trials with farmer-selected treatments on their own fields, field days with discussions to select the best among the tested practices, scaling-up to larger fields, and farmer participatory dissemination to neighbors and other communities. Based on the results of these trials, farmers have readily adopted better varieties, fertilization and intercropping practices, and many farmers have now adopted the planting of contour hedgerows to control erosion. The resulting increases in cassava yields in Asia over the past eight years have increased the annual gross income of cassava farmers by an estimated 275 million US dollars.
Cassava Industrial linkages, research partnerships and innovations that can serve to catalyse the transformation of cassava from mainly a domestic food crop into a key industrial crop are examined. Notably, industrial uses of cassava that could serve to spur the development of the cassava sub-sector in communities that are primarily dependent on this commodity are highlighted. Evidently, Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) strategies will be critical in sustaining and or promoting the utilisation of cassava in the industrial sector; these interventions must address developments across the cassava commodity chain from pre-production, production, harvesting and post-harvest handling, to processing, packaging marketing and distribution. The desired transformation justifies institutional reforms and special programmes to increase awareness of the economic potential of cassava beyond subsistence farming. The nutritional value of cassava, its potential for vaccine therapies, animal feed, bio-fuels, sugar production and starch in food and non-food industries are cardinal in the said transformation. Equally important is the urgent need to undertake strategic research to develop and promote cassava varieties that support industrial expansion both sustainably and economically. These interventions must carefully consider situations where: cassava outcompetes other starchy crops; cassava does not compare favourably to other starchy crops; and cassava is easily interchangeable with other starchy crops. Clearly, this requires commitment from central governments, cassava researchers, policy makers, industrialists, engineers, producers, and other key stakeholders towards attainment of this goal; and implementation of interventions aimed at strategically linking cassava growers to emerging markets. By far, government support to facilitate the establishment of small and medium-scaled cassava enterprises, and output oriented research partnerships will be pivotal.