Saturday, January 02, 2010

(TIMES) The Art of Farming - Cassava is next to maize in household food security

The Art of Farming - Cassava is next to maize in household food security
By Margaret mangani

TWO marketeers, Maria Nkonde and Juliet Mwansa thrive on selling cassav,a among other dry foods, at Lusaka’s new Soweto market. Ms Nkonde and Ms Mwansa are both widows who are earning an income through the sale of cassava.

They acquire the crop from Luapula Province and sometimes find themselves in Kasama to obtain the same and this has been on-going for a couple of years now. The duo have permanent stands in the market known for selling mostly cassava for which they are popular.

They are benefitting from the sale of the cassava in that they are able to sustain themselves and also take care of the orphans and have been able to put them in school in addition to meeting their school requirements.

The duo claim that the profit margin realised from the sale of the cassava sometimes ranges from K1,500,000 upwards, depending on the demand from their clients.
The cassava is sometimes dried to preserve it while sometimes its sold fresh depending on people’s preferences.

Then the dried one is milled and sold as cassava flour which is a delicacy among the Northerners and their fellow brothers hailing from Luapula who use it for cooking nshima and baking.

There has been a call by Government to millers to venture into cassava flour production from which they could make confectionaries besides the wheat products. The call cannot come at a better time than now when there is a need for Zambians to change their diet from maize being the sole staple food.

Recently, Central Province Minister Ackimson Banda is on record as having said that cassava farming and marketing are profitable ventures which farmers should consider exploiting seriously.

He advised farmers in the province to take the cultivation and marketing of cassava as a rewarding enterprise for both the local and international markets.
He emphasised that cassava growing was a food security produce whose raw materials could be used for industrial development.

He cited Central Province as having a comparative advantage over other regions because of its strategic location.

He commended the European Union for giving funds to for Small Scale Industries Association of Zambia (SSIAZ) as grant for them to undertake the training of cassava farmer groups in his province.

This was at the opening of a workshop for cassava farmers held in Kabwe.
After maize, cassava is the most important crop being grown and commercialised in Zambia.

The total volume produced per year is approximately 100,000 tonnes .
The average size of cassava plantations varies from 0.5 to two hectares and it mainly remains as a subsistence crop.

In some regions, (cassavabelt), more than 80 per cent of the farmer population depend on it for food security and economic revenue through commercialisation in the domestic markets or through export to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola.

According to a documenton cassava production in Zambia, Cassava Strategy for Zambia, cassava production systems have a considerable proportion of women farmers involved and they play a key role in the household economy.

More than 200 processed products of cassava can be derived from cassava roots and leaves and there is a significant market as well as potential for diversification through value addition and multi channel distribution strategies.

There is a linkage of different production areas to different market segments that is animal feed , human consumption, industrial usage –both internally as well as for export levels.

But there is little information regarding the actual domestic and cross border market size a document on cassava growing in Zambia has revealed this.

It further states that in Zambia cassava production has increased over the 20 years in relation to the gradual and slow removal of subsidies and Government insured market for maize.

The benefits of cassava have not been fully realised by the small holder farmers due to problems associated with cassava.

The small scale and hence cassava flour and processed flour based foods are most likely to find ready markets in the zones of heavy cassava production such as Mansa and Kasama.

Similarly most processing activities particularly first stage cassava processing which results in rapid weight reduction through water loss and value added will prove most profitable in the heavy cassava production zones.

Target market

The committee and sector stakeholders supported by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have reviewed current and potential markets for cassava at national and international level, fresh cassava roots and fresh cassava leaves , processed food cassava.

High quality cassava flour, animal feed starches and industrial uses and ethanol market were reviewed as a potential market for cassava from the second workshop , five markets were identified as targets for the strategy.

These are flour for human consumption ,animal feed convenience foods based on cassava , glue , wood and cardboard as well as for export to Congo Brazzaville.
There was also a suggestion that in Luapula, Copperbelt and Northern provinces for improved market opportunities for cassava in urban areas and in cross border markets (DRC and Angola ).

Farmers ought to take Mr Banda‘s advise on venturing into cassava seriously as it has the potential to contribute to the nation’s food basket at household and national levels as well as boost the economy in terms of exports.

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