Although Joy Odyek has been a cassava farmer for over twenty years, she has never looked at the fibrous root crop as a source of income for her family. The 43 year old farmer who lives in Akere village, in Apac district of Northern Uganda; with her husband and five childrendepended on cassava forfood, particularly during the drought season when harvest is poor.
She reveals, “We mostly grew cassava for food, and it was always helpful whenever there was a drought in the village because our home always had some food. Unfortunately, our farming was always disturbed by either too much sun or rain and we never really harvested enough good quality crops for sale at the market.”
Joy’s perception about cassava production completely change shortly after she got a job in a cassava processing farm in Apac district. She said, “I learned from a neighbour that a farmer from a neighbouring village, Mr. Sam Opio was looking for workers to peel cassava for him.”
She went further to add, “I thought the owner of the farm planned to sell the cassava freshly peeled, but when I started working at the farm amazed. Firstly, there was so much cassava to peel, and it wasn’t even being sold fresh; the peeled cassava was processed into cassava chips. She went further to explain,“I joined a team of seven peelers, and together we peel up to 1000 kilos of cassava daily at the site. I earn about four thousand two hundred (UGX 4,200) shillings whenever I peel, which is very helpful for catering to my family’s daily needs. Withn the two months since I have worked at Adyaka farm, I have seen the farm manager buying cassava roots from some community members and I too want to be able to earn money from the sale of cassava. My husband and I hope to be able to expand out acreage in order to grow more cassava and fulfil this dream, which we can see as a great opportunity.”
Having seen the opportunities that abound in cassava production, Joy brought one of her daughters, Akech Harriet to Adyaka Farm to learn new skills in produce marketing and cassava production.
She said, “We have both agreed that this is a good opportunity for her to earn money and gain skills in business. I am training her to develop her produce marketing skills and I hope that she will find a way to prosper from this opportunity.Indeed, I hope that all my children can come here some day and learn how to work smart. I want them to become wealthy. Although this is not so much money, I see it as a good start for them to learn and be mentored in ways of becoming prosperous. I am grateful to God for the opportunity that has been brought to me and my family.”
Adyaka Farm is a beneficiary of the CAVA II project, being implemented by the Africa Innovations Institute in Uganda. The farm employs smallholder farmers at all stages of processing cassava chips. Apart from Joy Odyek who currently works in the farm, rural women from surrounding villages of Ilera-Akere, Amin teng and Akere; form the core group that peels and washes the cassava roots. Young people in the district are also involved in the chipping, transportation, drying and packaging processes on site.
Adyaka Farm offers both its staff and surrounding communities the opportunity to sell fresh cassava roots (FCR) to the processing site at a price of one hundred (UGX 100) shillings.In comparison to other casual labour employment opportunities in the surrounding community, which are occasional and earn local farmers a minimum wage of about one thousand five hundred (UGX 1500) shillings per session, the budding Adyaka Farm business model is a breath of fresh air to farmers in dire need of daily opportunities to earn income and grow in business.
The farm, which was originally operated on an internal sourcing business model for cassava root supply is now shifting to an out-sourcing model. Though currently the farm is sourcing roots from a community with a limited supply of roots, AfrII is working with the farm management to establish a sustainable out-grower business model that ties together all stages of the process, from sourcing and production of ample quality declared planting material by participating farmers to development of beneficial financial linkages that would strengthen the value chain in favour of all value chain actors under the CAVA II project