By Chatula Kangali-
CASSAVA has in the recent past witnessed growing demand due to the increase in its industrial use and wide value chain.
The increased demand for cassava has resulted in the rise in the price of the crop on both the local and regional markets.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global cassava starch market size is predicted to reach $66.84 billion by 2026, which local farmers should take advantage of by increasing production.
Among the factors that are encouraging demand is the popular use of the crop in various industries such as alcohol, textile and energy production among others.
In Zambia, the cassava sector has attracted investment in energy production, alcohol and milling among others.
For example, Zambian Breweries (ZB) is using the crop in the production of its clear beer, Eagle lager and currently has an out grower scheme of small-scale cassava farmers in Luapula Province.
ZB is currently supporting more than 6,000 small-scale farmers and procures between 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of cassava per year.
Cassava in Zambia is mostly produced in Luapula Province and the northern part .It is the country’s second staple food after maize.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the country produces between 800,000 to one million tonnes of the crop per annum.
In the recent past, government and cooperating partners have been working on commercialising the crop due to its various industry uses and growing demand after identifying it as a money spinner.
Musika Zambia has been a key player in supplementing the government’s effort to grow and commercialise the cassava value chain sector.
Musika has so far facilitated investments of more than $1.5 million towards cassava commercialisation through multiple interventions implemented by 10 private sector partners in Northern, Luapula, Central,Western and North Western provinces of Zambia.
Head of corporate affairs, Pamela Hamasaka says Musika partners are drawn from a diverse range of industry operators including brewery, food processors and confectionery, livestock feed, biofuels, and ethanol producers.
Ms Hamasaka says these partners played a pivotal role in meeting Musika’s main objective of providing a ready and transparent market for the cassava crop, and access to inputs such as improved cassava varieties by smallholder farmers, coupled with training and extension services, to help meet the quality and quantity that the market demands.
“ Recently Musika signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Zambia National Cassava Association (ZANACA) to increase industry level collaboration of key value chain actors and address industry wide challenges affecting the commercialisation of the crop,” she says.
Ms Hamasaka says one of Musika’s partners has a target of 12,000 smallholder farmers of which 50 per cent are women and were set to benefit from its $9 million ethanol and livestock feed processing plant which requires a daily supply of 150 tonnes of cassava feedstock.
The company invested an additional $10 million to develop its farmer supply network and cassava production to meet its annual target of 50,000 tonnes of dry cassava chips.
She says Musika will continue contributing to the government’s efforts towards the commercialization of cassava by playing a pivotal role in identifying potential investments through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the agriculture sector, including other value chains.
In addition, the Chifwani concept introduced and coined by Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Emmanuel Mwamba is another encouraging feat in cassava commercialisation.
Since its announcement, Chifwani Concepts officials have continued to give cassava cuttings to farmers in Northern Province.
The team has been distributing a variety of cassava cuttings that are early maturing and disease resistant.
Former Mulilansolo Ward Councillor Aaron Zimba has been part of the team which is distributing cassava cuttings in Northern Province.
Mr Zimba says farmers have welcomed the initiative by Chifwani Concepts as it was long-term and promoted the farming opportunities of small-scale farmers.
Chifwani Concepts has established an office in Kasama to promote the wide farming of cassava.
Chifwani Concepts has also obtained a market for the cassava with manufacturers using the crop as raw material in industrial products such as ethanol, fertiliser and stock feed.
Promoter of the Concept, Mr Mwamba says he believes in the biblical wisdom which guides that; “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
But the cassava commercialisation in the country has continued facing setbacks among low production and productivity leading to limited supply for industrial and human demand.
Other challenges include the prevalence of crop pests and diseases, such as the cassava mealybug and brown streak disease, which have been affecting cassava yields.
According to the Draft Cassava Value Chain Assessment Report, which was commissioned by Musika, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a disorganised marketing arrangements, especially for small scale farmers was leading to limited aggregation of produce and bargaining power; as well as limited capacity in entrepreneurship and business skills among small scale farmers.
The report indicates that limited infrastructure to support cassava processing and marketing, which has caused huge post harvest losses and limited financing options available to cassava industry players and limited use of mechanisation in production and processing of cassava were among the major challenges.
However, the government is aware of the challenges in the commercialisation of the cassava value chain sector in the country.
Ministry of agriculture permanent secretary Songowayo Zyambo says cassava was an important food and industrial crop which the government was promoting.
He says the government was aware that the production of cassava had huge potential in various parts of the country, the reason it was working with all stakeholders in improving the policy and legislative environment for the development of the cassava industry.
Mr Zyambo says the government was calling on stakeholders to continue creating partnerships in implementing measures that would address challenges in the sector.
For Zambia to fully commercialise and satisfy the growing demand of the crop on both the local and international market, there is a need for a multi-sectoral approach to grow the sector and address its challenges.