Public-private partnership project on cassava mechanisation, agro-processing launched

Written by Adeleke Mainasara

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development has said cassava is an exceptionally important crop in Nigeria whose production faces immense challenges – a situation that needs to change.

“Nigeria has an annual production of 40 million metric tonnes but accounts for zero percent of the global trade in value added cassava products compared to countries like Thailand that produce only 10 percent of global production and account for 80 percent of global trade in similar products” he added.

He attributed this situation to the numerous challenges that cassava farmers in the country face including limited or no access to cassava mechanised farming equipment and processing technologies.

He said this while officiating the launch of the Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) at the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation in Illorin today. “CAMAP has the potential to intervene across the entire value chain of cassava production in Nigeria and indeed in Sub-Saharan Africa” (SSA) he added.

The goal of (CAMAP) is to enhance the contribution of cassava production and processing technologies for sustainable improvements in food security, incomes and livelihoods of farmers, processors, and marketers in the cassava sector.

This will be achieved through upgrading and expanding traditional planting, harvesting and processing techniques that will contribute to development of competitive cassava commodity value chains for a reliable supply of processed products for food and non-food industrial use.

CAMAP is a public-private partnership that is being coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and in Nigeria involves the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the governments of Kwara and Osun states.

“The intervention of government is bearing fruit as the country has saved 254 billion naira so far through the substitution of cassava flour in bread making, a policy of government launched by President Goodluck Jonathan to blend 40 percent high quality cassava flour with 60 percent wheat flour in bread production. CAMAP activities fit into the Ministry of Agriculture’s drive to revitalise cassava production in Nigeria” Dr Adesina said.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Idah Sithole-Niang’ the Board Chair of the AATF Board of Trustees, said that the use of technology in agriculture has been known to have potential for better productivity as it  can improve yields, realise operational efficiency, reduce labour drudgery, increase profits and improve livelihoods.

The CAMAP launch, she said, ushers in the use of agricultural mechanisation and agro-processing to improve productivity and profitability of cassava in Nigeria given the realisation of its importance as a staple and emerging cash crop in SSA.

She said that mechanisation has for a long time been seen as the preserve of the rich. However, she said, the project will demonstrate that smallholder farmers can also be organised into farming clusters and benefit from mechanisation and farming as a business. “CAMAP offers potential to make a difference to our farmers that will enable cassava farmers to participate in real agricultural business” she said

Statistics show that in Africa, it takes a farmer 10 days to cut or harvest their fields where a farmer in India needs only six hours with mechanisation.

According to Dr Denis T. Kyetere, the Executive Director of AATF, the launch of CAMAP marks a milestone for the Foundation as agricultural mechanisation is one of its key priority areas of work that will ensure that cassava contributes its rightful share in the alleviation of food insecurity in SSA.

“We know that mechanisation can make a great difference to our agriculture and that Nigeria can benefit from this intervention. We also know of the commitment by the Federal government towards enhancing cassava productivity and we are glad that we can make a contribution” Dr Kyetere added.

AATF selected Nigeria and Zambia as the first pilot countries for the project based on the fact that cassava is a major staple in the two countries. The project operations kicked off towards the end of 2012. The pilot phase will run for three years after which the project will be upscaled to cover more areas in the pilot countries as well as expand to other cassava producing countries in SSA.

Other projects that the AATF has been collaborating with Nigeria partners include the development of a Maruca resistant cowpea which it has been working on with the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) through the Institute of Agricultural Research, Kaduna State. The insect pest Maruca causes yield losses of up to 90 percent, resulting in production of poor quality grains and loss of revenue. AATF also participates in the control of aflatoxins in maize and peanuts which it collaborates with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Ibadan.

In partnership with the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the ARCN, AATF is also providing a platform known as the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) for discussions on biotechnology and how Africa can utilise the technology to support agricultural development in Africa.

Engineer Ike Azogu, Executive Director, NCAM said the launch of CAMAP will create the initial platform for rapid mechanisation of cassava production in Nigeria. “It is our belief that Nigeria in the next few years will not only satisfy her local cassava requirements, but also generate a lot of foreign exchange through massive cassava products export” he added.

“CAMAP will strengthen the cassava value chain and advance its farming as a profitable commercial enterprise which has been the dream of many smallholder farmers in Nigeria over the years” said Dr J. C. Okonkwo, Executive Director, National Root Crops Research Institute.

According to Hon Richard Wale Adedoyin, Osun State Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, through the project farmers can now realise the possibility of good harvests amounting to between 40 – 50 metric tonnes of cassava per hectare which they have only been hearing is possible in other parts of the world.

“CAMAP is a practical demonstration of real empowerment of our local farmers as it will assist and teach them modern ways of cassava production that will give them bumper harvests devoid of the usual drudgery and fatigue associated with producing the crop” said Olabode Olayemi Hon. Commissioner Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kwara State.

Cassava is an important food crop both for urban and rural consumers in SSA and is a basic staple food in Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Malawi, and Tanzania making Africa the largest cassava producing region in the world. The competitiveness of African cassava manufactured products at the world market has been low because it is produced and processed for subsistence, not as a commercial crop.

CAMAP is aimed at affecting change along the cassava value chain: planting, harvesting, processing, value addition and market linkages. The project will enhance smallholder capacity in planting, harvesting, and processing and enterprise development to improve food security, create wealth, generate employment and boost the rural economy.

In Nigeria the project is being piloted in two states - Kwara and Osun and will then be replicated to other states with time. To date, a total of 100 hectares have been planted in both states. The process involved land preparation using tractor drawn ploughs and harrows, sourcing of improved cassava varieties for planting materials, planting using cassava planters, and application of pre-emergence pesticides using a boom sprayer. More land will be put under the crop during the 2014 planting season.

NCAM will soon commence work on local manufacture of the equipment to ensure sustainable equipment supply. Only parts which cannot be locally manufactured will be imported.

The mechanisation equipment being accessed by CAMAP are for cultivation, planting, weeding, harvesting, peeling, dewatering, drying, chipping, roasting, milling and processing cassava into various cassava products.

AATF was established 10 years ago as a mechanism for negotiating royalty free access and delivery of agricultural technologies on behalf of SSA especially scientists and farmers. AATF also forms partnerships for the development and deployment of these technologies. In this process, AATF acts as the ‘responsible party’ ensuring technologies are appropriately and responsibly developed and used across the value chain.

Today AATF has 10 partnership projects in 10 countries of SSA. The Foundation focuses on food and high value crops produced by smallholder farmers in SSA.  The technological solutions that AATF brokers targets SSA’s priority agricultural constraints such as impact of climate change on agriculture; pest management; soil management; nutrient enhancement in foods; improved breeding methods; and mechanisation. In addition, AATF works with partners in the area of enabling environment to support decision making and policy formulation.

Other projects that AATF currently participates in, in SSA include: Striga control in maize; improvement of banana for resistance to banana bacterial wilt; development of drought tolerance in maize; and development of nitrogen-use efficient, water-use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties.

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