Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA II) has been supporting development of cassava value chains with financial support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The main objective is to increase incomes of smallholder farmers and all key players through participation in profitable and sustainable cassava value chains. CAVA II is using a market driven approach to develop a sustainable cassava value chain.
Since its inception, the project has facilitated the establishment of a number of processing plants which add value to fresh cassava roots into value added products such as high quality cassava flour, starch and industrial grade flour which has potential for utilization by industrial manufacturers as partial substitute for wheat flour and complete replacement for corn starch. Some of the industries that have started benefitting include the confectionery (biscuits and bakeries), paper board; meat sausages, fish and poultry feed manufacturers, breweries and plywood industries.
CAVA II has facilitated investment in both small scale processing plants located in rural areas with capacity to process between 1000-2000kgs of fresh roots per day using sun drying to supply to specific market segments as well as commercial processing plants with potential to process 20 tons of roots per day using artificial drying technologies such as flash dryers. Despite having ready potential market for finished cassava products and numerous private sector partners making investments in processing plants, the lack of sustainable raw material supply was a major hindrance to improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
The supply of raw materials (fresh cassava roots) to processing plants has been one of the main challenges in establishing sustainable cassava value chains in Malawi. The shortage of raw material supply to processors has been as a result of unavailability and inaccessibility of improved cassava varieties that are resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and the continuous use of local cassava varieties that are susceptible to these major cassavas.
Cassava was perceived as a poor man’s crop and mainly grown for food security purposes in the past and thereby did not create enough motivation for farmers to adopt improved varieties and related technologies. The crop is often remembered when the country experienced drought spells. Recently there has been a shift in this perception through the CAVA II project which is promoting cassava products as versatile raw materials for diverse markets in food and non-food industries.
A number of partners have come on board to fill the gaps identified through the implementation of the CAVA II project. These include the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) through the Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership (SSTP) project with funding from USAID and GIZ through the Green Innovation Centres (GCAFS) and More Income and Employment in Rural Areas (MIERA) Programmes.
These partnerships are contributing to building a more sustainable raw material supply to processors and facilitating organization of smallholder farmers into groups, associations and cooperatives for inclusive business models. So far over 400 hectares of multiplication plots with 4 improved cassava varieties comprising 2 high cyanide and 2 low cyanide varieties have been established around processing plants involving 1910 smallholder farmers and 4 commercial growers.
This is expected to plant about 4000 hectares of new area with improved varieties in the coming season and thereby contribute to increased yields. The partnerships are contributing to development of a sustainable cassava industry with most of the benefits going to smallholder farmers through participation in profitable value chain through increased incomes and food security.
The increased supply of raw materials has further triggered additional investments to the processing plants such as installation of hybrid solar dryers to ensure processing throughout the year for community processing groups using sun drying and ethanol production plant to utilize cassava peels and thereby increasing the value of the crop.
In addition, the increased raw material supply brings confidence to the end users of consistent supply of high quality of finished cassava products. This provides additional motivation for smallholder farmers who are the main suppliers of fresh roots to engage in cassava production and demand improved technologies in Malawi.