Cassava brings smiles to farmers
Many farmers in Zomba, who traditionally used to grow tobacco, are now reaping big in cassava, a crop they say does not burden them with “unnecessary expenses” and deductions during sales.
Speaking in separate interviews with The Daily Times, the farmers said unlike in tobacco, growing of cassava avails them double and maximum reaps, in that they sell both tubers and cuttings (for seed) as well as the leaves as a traditional delicacy and animal feed.
“Previously, I used to grow a lot of tobacco, but the continued escalation of input prices, coupled with low prices at the auction floors and too many deductions in form of levies, made me stop. But I don’t regret that decision because I have found a new and better lease in life, growing of cassava,” said Janet Suwali of Njenjema Village, Traditional Authority Chikowi in the district.
She is one of the numerous farmers now growing cassava varieties, used for high quality cassava flour, under a project that seeks to maximise value addition–the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA).
C:AVA is a collaborative project between Natural Resources Institute in UK, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria (FUNAAB) and the Chemistry Department at Chancellor College, according to its Malawi Country Director, Vito Sandifolo.
The main objective, he says, is to increase incomes of smallholder farmers and all stakeholders in the value chain through participation in profitable and sustainable cassava value chains. Besides Malawi, the project is also implemented in other four countries namely, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. C:AVA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and receives technical support from the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of United Kingdom.
“We are currently promoting the crop to enable farmers and all key stakeholders in the value chain to generate sustainable incomes, economic growth and poverty reduction through increased productivity, value addition and marketing,” Sandifolo said in an interview.
And Suwali and other farmers interviewed testify that their incomes have increased due to their adopting cassava farming.
“I started with three acres only, but now I can ably testify that my family has economically transformed. Since many people in our area and other parts of Zomba are going into cassava farming, we are selling plenty of the cuttings, hence reaping big in sales,” Suwali said.
One other farmer that smiles big after deciding to abandon tobacco is Patrick Kaliwo, a secondary school teacher at Nasawa. Kaliwo netted over K1.8 million in sales of seed (cuttings) and also over K300,000-from tuber sales.
“The welfare of my family has drastically changed considering that now I supplement my salary with the big economic gains I am making from growing these disease-resistant cassava varieties. It is no mean achievement to net over K2 million in a year, considering that I did not spend any money to buy fertilisers or chemicals, as was the case when I used to grow tobacco,” he said.
Sandifolo said it was exciting that the project is bearing noticeable positives in all the areas C:AVA is initiating and that many farmers are coming out to embrace it.
Currently, he said, the project is being implemented in Zomba, Mulanje, Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Machinga, Mangochi, Balaka, Mwanza, Salima, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe, and Nkhata Bay. However, there are plans to extend to Phalombe, Neno, Mchinji, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Mzimba, Rumphi and Karonga.
“The first phase was implemented from 2009 to March 2014 with the main objective of developing value chains for high quality cassava flour as partial substitute for wheat flour in confectionery products and replacement for corn starch in paperboard and textile industries. The second phase from April 2014-March 2019 has diversified into a number of products from cassava including starch, ethanol, glucose and livestock feeds,” said Sandifolo, adding the current phase is coordinated from FUNAAB.
“C:AVA has also received financial support from USAID through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to improve access to improved varieties and clean cassava planting materials by farmers from November 2015 to October 2016,” he added.
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