A four-year project on cassava dubbed; Cassava- Adding Value For Africa (C:AVA), aimed at boosting the incomes of small-scale African farmers by linking them to new markets was launched in Accra on Thursday.
The project is an initiative led by the University of Greenwich's Natural Resources Institute, United Kingdom, in partnership with the Food Research Institute of Ghana.
The project, which would be implemented in Ghana and four other African countries, is being sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Other beneficiary countries are Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi. The project would kick-start in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania this year, while that of Uganda and Malawi would start next year.
In Ghana, the Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions have been selected to be the project centres.
Dr. Nanam Tay Dziedzoave, C:AVA Country Manager, CSIR-Food Research Institute, said the project was expected to assist over 90,000 smallholder households to increase their income levels and livelihoods by the end of the period.
That, he said, would be achieved through the use of innovative interventions to capacitate farmers, village processing units and market intermediaries to competitively deliver high quality cassava-based products to a well sensitized market.
He said the C:AVA project sought to complement the IFAD-funded Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture by focusing only on cassava, with a view to maximizing achievements in cassava sub-sector.
He therefore called on all primary actors of the chain, facilitators and consumers, and policy makers to support the project to achieve its objectives.
In a speech read for him, Prof. Dominic Fobih, Minister of Education, Science and Sports, said the creation of an adequate scientific and technological base was a necessary condition for the medium and long term transformation of Ghana.
He said the contribution of cassava and other root and tuber crops to national agricultural GDP, which currently stood about 43 per cent, justified the various investments being made.
Prof. Fobih said in the face of escalating world food prices, the time had come to produce and utilize “what we want from what we have”.
He, however, challenged the managers and stakeholders in all those interventions not only to ensure that the investments brought significant benefit to the target beneficiaries and the nation as a whole, but to also ensure that there was proper integration and collaboration in the sector, to avoid duplication and waste.
Mr. Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read for him, said the Ministry was deliberating with the stakeholders in the cassava industry as well as representatives of flour milling companies on the possibility of legislation for inclusion of high quality cassava flour (HQCF) into wheat flour at the flour mills.
He said they were currently discussing acceptable inclusion levels and modalities for developing capacity to meet the demand that could be created by such legislation, as well as mitigating any possible problems that might arise.
The Minister therefore urged C:AVA project management and implementation teams to establish an objective way of measuring the impact of the numerous strategies to improve the implementation of future interventions.
Dr. Wisdom Plahar, Director, CSIR-Food Research Institute, said since the inception of the Institute in 1963, it had been in the forefront of post-harvest handling of cassava in Ghana and it was gratifying that it had been chosen to lead the implementation of the C:AVA project in the country.
He said the commitment, dedication, enthusiasm, and purposeful drive with which previous projects had been implemented would be applied to the C:AVA to successfully achieve the objectives of the project.