CASSAVA production offers immense untapped opportunities for extending labour use in the country and exploits price peaks in food market that would ultimately lead to increased earnings for smallholder farmers.
Tanzania is among the three African countries that produce about 70 per cent of Africa’s cassava output alongside Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Cassava has huge potential to boost farm incomes, reduce rural and urban poverty and help close the food gap.
Globally, cassava is the fourth most important staple crop after rice, wheat and maize, and plays an essential role in food security.
Currently, about half of the world production of cassava is in Africa. Cassava is cultivated in around 40 African countries, stretching through a wide belt from Madagascar in the Southeast to Senegal and to Cape Verde in the Northwest.
Cassava processing for value addition is not only an important strategy for addressing post-harvest losses but the potential to create additional employment opportunities along the supply chain.
This is because cassava starch is an important source of biomaterial for different food and non-food industrial applications.
It is from this backdrop that Roijok Progress Centre has for years being involved closely in promoting farmers’ efforts in cassava production with the end goal of boosting their earnings as important tool in the fight against poverty.
The Managing Director of the Roijok Progress Centre, Ms Rose Urio said they have worked with smallholder farmers through contract farming while assuring them reliable markets for their products.
“The initiative that goes through the whole cassava value chain has transformed smallholder cassava farmers through increased productivity while boosting their earnings for improved living standards,” she said.
She said among the many successes that the organisation posted in working with smallholder farmers includes the empowerment of women and youth take active part in cassava production.
Cassava is one among the foods produced in more than 17 regions in Tanzania, more than 60 industries in the country source their raw materials from cassava and as much as health is involved cassava has much protein and the best lithium is found in cassava flour.
Due to cassava’s growth characteristics and ability to grow in poor soils and regions prone to drought, it is preferred by resource poor farmers in many tropical countries.
While cassava plays an important role as a food security crop for subsistence farmers, it is prone to rapid postharvest deterioration.
Moreover, farmers producing cassava can increase their income by finding alternative end uses to home consumption.
To meet the high demand for cassava in Tanzania, cultivar selection, production and processing all need to be improved.
Enabling policies that create satisfactory business opportunities for small holder farmers, traders and processors for starch industries is also critical.
Ms Urio thanked the government for the encouragement in the effort to promote cassava production and particularly when the parliament in 2017 declaring the crop as one with immense business opportunities that would lift farmers from poverty.
She said Roijok Progress Centre has been engaging in cassava production for eight years with their main goal being that of commercialising cassava to boost farm-ers’ earnings and contribution to economic growth.
Throughout this period, the organisation has been involved in various campaigns to create awareness particularly on best cassava farming practices and how farmers can explore other potentials along its value chain.
For example, one of the successful campaigns was Cassava for life which was held in Tanga Region in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture through which they managed to secure new markets within and outside the country.
Furthermore, the Managing Director pointed out the fact that of all the other products, cassava product has almost more usage and benefits in the world than other food products.
Apart from being food for human being and animals, cassava has other important use namely for making clothes, papers, mixing colours as binders, all batteries use lithium and the best lithium is found in cassava.
She noted that her company has opened up a large door which helps different people to fight against poverty where they have been sending people out of the county like USA to learn more about agriculture and many youth are happy for getting this opportunity as well as empowerment programme.
Ms Urio, as the founder of the Roijok Progress Centre has played a greater role in encouraging youth and women to work hard and become successful.
All these efforts were recently recognised after emerging an award winner of MALIKIA WA NGUVU in 2016 and in 2019 as winner on Women Empowerment.
She is also a motivator and a mentor to many youth and women in different matters. As an integral component most Cassava in Tanzania are an integral component of most cropping systems and among the more important staples in many zones.
It plays an important role as a food security crop and provides useful opportunities for extending labour use and exploiting price peaks in the food market.