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NEPAD sees cassava as Africa’s poverty fighter

07 March 2007, Nepad Dialogue, Issue 170
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Midrand:  The W.K.Kellog Foundation has given a grant of US$599,800 to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to promote the NEPAD Pan Africa Cassava Initiative (NPACI) for sustainable economic growth, food security and poverty alleviation in Africa. The grant will help the NEPAD/IITA unit that has been established at the Chitedze Research Station in Malawi.

NEPAD’s Pan African Cassava Initiative has adopted the theme “Cassava - a poverty fighter in Africa” -- the goal of the initiative being to tap the enormous potential of cassava for food security and income generation.

The philosophy is that production of cassava will be viable and sustainable if it is driven by market forces. Production, technology generation and development are expected to respond simultaneously to the market pull.

During 1997/98 a severe drought devastated maize farms, putting 27 million people in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia at high risk of severe food shortage.
IITA in response started to promote the production of cassava, a drought tolerant crop, to reduce the risk associated with the dependency on maize.

Through the Cassava Initiative, NEPAD intends to scale-up local, national and regional interventions for better impact in rural and peri-urban communities. One such intervention is in the Nkhotaka district in Malawi with a project to improve rural livelihoods through cassava commercialisation, funded by USAID.

In Katimba village, in the Nkhotakota district, farmers now produce cassava with yields of 22 t/ha.

Working through the Southern Africa Root Crops Research Network (SARRNET) and in collaboration with the national program, IITA initiated the Masinda Cassava Club in the village as a pilot processing centre to turn cassava into industrial starch. This was aimed at adding value to cassava production in the village. After one year the Club sold about 40 Mt of starch, worth over US$20,000.

The current demand for industrial starch is greater than the supply and the initiative has created a market pull for cassava farmers in the neighbouring villages.

Prior to the establishment of the processing plant, the cassava roots had no real monetary value, apart from being a food surplus. Starch processing and the need for transportation of fresh tuberous roots from the fields to the factory have had a marked impact on rural livelihoods, as well as creating employment.

Farmers are now making more than US$ 800 from just one hectare of fresh cassava sold to the group and this income has affected the livelihoods of all farmers in this poor rural community.

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