Removing drudgery from cassava farming – success for farmer Stephania Kunda in Zambia

Cassava, a highly nutritious crop, can be time consuming to plant, maintain and harvest. This has caused many farmers to shun planting the crop and those who plant cassava neglect its maintenance leading to below optimum yields. Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP), currently being implemented in Nigeria, Zambia and Uganda, is aimed at reducing drudgery, and increasing productivity and incomes for farmers.

Stephania Kunda (extreme right) with the CAMAP team (left to right: George Marechera, AATF, Lazarus and Mr Mutondo, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) ) on her farm.

Stephania Kunda is one of the farmers participating in the project’s implementation. She was part of the first group of farmers selected for the CAMAP project in 2013 who planted 1 ha of cassava using machines for preparing the land and planting the cassava. One and a half years later, she boasts of a bountiful harvest of cassava as a result of the project. She harvests 55 baskets of cassava that weigh about 50kg before peeling from a 25 sq metre of land and sells them at 15 Kwacha (USD 2.2) each. This price varies and could go up as high as 30 Kwacha (USD 4.4) per basket. In total, she earns 825 Kwacha (USD 121) from 25m by 25m land and ultimately 13,200 Kwacha (USD 1,941) per hectare of land.

Family members peeling cassava on Stephania’s farm

Family members peeling cassava on Stephania’s farm

Cassava weighing 47kg after peeling (about 50kg before peeling)

Cassava weighing 47kg after peeling (about 50kg before peeling)

This season, Stephania has decided to increase the area she is planting with cassava to increase her profits. She can now afford to pay for machine services to cultivate the new piece of land from income gained from the previous harvest. She is also saving some money to buy a bicycle and more goats which feed on cassava peelings.

CAMAP continues to change lives of smallholder farmers through helping them plant cassava on larger tracts of land by providing machine services at a subsidized rate. The subsidized payments are used to build a revolving fund that ensures the sustainability of the project.

–    Grace Muinga, AATF

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Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project rejuvenates hope in Osun State, Nigeria

Cassava mechanization and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP) has opened new worlds for many in Osun State in Nigeria. Mrs. Kikelomo Amusan never thought that at any given day in her life she would ever own anything in excess of one acre of cassava crop. This came to be when CAMAP kicked off with the first 50 beneficiaries in early May 2013. Mrs. Amusan was lucky to be among the chosen few after adequately satisfying the elaborate criteria which included ownership of one hectare of well stumped land with a good access road; willingness to contribute both in kind and in cash for weeding and any other cost such as firebreak clearing. She was very pleased to have been selected since had leased a one hectare farm where she had cultivated for a number of years. She was also more than willing and ready to maintain her crop free of weeds.

Everything seemed to work well for her since all the necessary inputs which included quality cassava stem cuttings, fertilizer and pre-emergence herbicide were availed by the project on time. It was not until when the tractor was deployed to her farm when things turned against her. Her landlord decided to block her from accessing the farm. She tried by all means to request the landlord to allow her continue preparing the land but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Her misfortune did not dampen her resolve to participate in the project activities. She immediately decided to move on and look for another piece of land which she did. However, the new piece of land needed a lot of effort to prepare. This is because it was like a virgin land after lying fallow for over six years. It was overgrown with bushes and shrubs big enough for charcoal production. She immediately swung to action and by the time she was through with land clearing, she had paid 26,000 Naira. This included clearing a road wide enough to allow movement of equipment into her farm which is about 200 metres off the road. By this time all the other farmers had their land already ploughed and harrowed and planting was underway. This meant that she had to look for a tractor to help her plough her land since the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation ploughing and harrowing equipment had already been retired to their station in Ilorin, Kwara state. This posed another seemingly insurmountable hurdle to her efforts. Had it not been for the quick intervention of the Cabesi- the area traditional ruler who sourced another tractor from the area for her, Mrs Amusan could not have realized her dream.

The area traditional ruler- Cabesi also project beneficiary. Were it not for his timely intervention, Mrs Amusan could not have realized her dream Mrs Amusan had to clear a road wide enough to allow movement of farm machinery to her new farm


As if that was not enough, by the time land preparation was over, all the planting materials that had been delivered to her initial farm had dried up. She had to move with speed and obtain fresh cassava cuttings if she had to succeed since planting in the other 49 farms had been completed. Luckily she managed to get some materials which were not of as good quality as she had expected. Finally her land was planted on 20th May 2013 and Mrs Amusan cannot hold back her joy as she watches her flourishing and healthy cassava crop grow. She looks forward to the day a tractor drawn cassava harvester will drive into her farm to reap what she painfully sow.

amusanMrs. Amusan (centre) AATF Director, Dr. Kyetere (left) and AATF BoT Chairperson, Prof. Idah Sithole- Niang on her cassava farm.

This is a true story of resilience and fortitude. If all the farmers were as determined as Mrs Amusan, Africa would have enough for her consumption and export markets.

Joseph Ndwiga

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Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-Processing Project

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is an important food crop both for urban and rural consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cassava is a basic staple food in Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Malawi, and Tanzania. Recently, cassava has increasingly gained importance as a cash crop for smallholder farmers in the region.  Africa is the largest cassava producing region in the world.  About 93 percent of the produce is consumed as food (in contrast to Latin America and Asia where less than half is utilised for food consumption). Millions of African farmers grow cassava mainly for home consumption and the local markets. The competitiveness of African cassava manufactured products at the world market is low because the crop is produced and processed for subsistence and not for commercial use. Public sector efforts to commercialise cassava have also not been effective.

One of the key constraints to cassava production in Africa is lack of mechanisation or of appropriate production and processing tools. Africa is the world’s largest cassava producing region and accounts for nearly 55 percent of the world’s output despite the fact that yields are the lowest in the world (10 tonnes per hectare compared to 26 tonnes per hectare in India). The main challenge is that market opportunities for cassava in Africa are limited compared to other cassava-producing regions of the world. It has been established that where cassava farmers have access to markets, they tend to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies. . The use of cassava as feedstock in the manufacturing industry, and any other large scale use (such as the mandated incorporation of 10 percent cassava flour in wheat flour for bread making in Nigeria) requires the existence of a large number of small-scale cassava processing units.

The existing capacity for manufacturing quality cassava processing equipment in Africa is limited and unless this capacity is enhanced, it is unlikely that cassava farmers and entrepreneurs will benefit from these new market opportunities. Manufacturers in Africa obtain prototypes from foreign manufacturers and fabricate them. However, the quality of the locally made equipment is usually sub-standard and uncompetitive. On the other hand, equipment manufacturers outside of Africa are reluctant to supply equipment to African businesses for fear of piracy and subsequent loss of market.

To address the above production challenges, AATF is coordinating a new project known as Cassava Mechanization and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) whose goal is ‘To enhance the contribution of cassava production and processing technologies to sustainable improvements in food security, incomes and livelihoods of farmers, processors, and marketers in the cassava sector..

The project’s purpose is: to develop competitive cassava commodity value chains for a reliable supply of processed products for food and non-food industrial use, by upgrading and expanding traditional planting, harvesting and processing techniques in selected countries in Africa.

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  1. Negotiate access and transfer of cassava mechanisation and agro-processing technologies for use by smallholder farmers
  2. Increase cassava production through mechanisation across the entire value chain and thus reduce post-harvest losses and demands for intensive labour
  3. Add value to the cassava industry through value addition and creation of market linkages by linking smallholder farmers with agro-processing centers
  4. Build capacity of local entrepreneurs to design prototype machines, manufacture, maintain and repair the necessary equipment for cassava planting, harvesting and processing
  5. Expand the utilisation of safe, quality, diversified, value-added cassava products and derivatives
  6. Establish a project governance and management system that will assure the efficient realisation of the above objectives

The project will target 3.5 million smallholder farmers including agro-processors, service providers and fabricators in Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and DRC covering approximately 7.5 million hectares for farmers who need labour-saving cassava production and processing technologies. This will lead to increased incomes and better livelihoods for millions of cassava farmers and thousands of small-scale entrepreneurs through the use of cassava as a raw material for manufacturing various products in African countries.

It is expected that the development of appropriate prototypes of cassava production and processing units coupled with capacity building on cassava production, processing and enterprise development will result in higher revenues and better working conditions for the labour force, which is largely composed of women (over 80 percent). AATF is thereforeworking with partners to improve cassava productivity through approaches that optimise labour requirements during field and processing operations. It is expected that these interventions will guarantee a stable and equitable large-scale transition of smallholder farmers from subsistence into commercial production and of small-scale processing enterprises from partial-market orientation to full integration in industrialised cassava supply chains. The project is focusing on smallholder farmers, small and medium scale enterprises and associations of processors as a means of linking producers and processors with market demand.

The pilot phase of the project started in 2012 in Zambia and Nigeria and will take two years after which a full scale project will be rolled out to cover more countries. The pilot farmers in the two countries have been identified and planting preparations and other capacity building activities are underway in readiness for the 2012/2013 planting season.

AATF has to date managed to negotiate and access cassava mechanisation technologies from Brazil and the first batch of demonstration machinery is expected in the pilot countries by the end of 2012. AATF will partner with government agencies responsible for cassava development as well as with the private sector players in the industry in the respective countries in order to build strong public-private partnerships to ensure project sustainability.

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