New processing centres raise cassava’s outlook in Sierra Leone
Cassava's profile as a food security and poverty-reducing crop got a boost with the commissioning of five new processing centres in Sierra Leone, thanks to the Common Fund for Commodities, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute and other partners.
The processing centres, which are located in five different communities including Waterloo, Bo District, Njala Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Makeni City/Teko, and Hamdalai in Sierra Leone, are part of a $1.6 million Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) funded project involving Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin Republic. The project is seeking value addition to cassava and to consequently boost production and generate wealth.
“It will also improve livelihood, incomes of farmers and stakeholders in the cassava enterprise,” says Prof. Lateef Sanni, Project Coordinator, for the Common Fund for Commodities Funded project. “More importantly, this will create market and drive the production of cassava.”
Since 1990, cassava production in Sierra Leone has been on the upbeat climbing from
178,200 metric tons in 1990 to 1,236,852 mt in 2007. Dr. Alfred Dixon, Director General, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute says the utilisation of cassava and creation of products such as gari—a Nigerian-introduced staple— has actually created demand for the crop. Consequently, cassava is now second to rice as a staple with people eating both the leaves and tubers of the crop.
The establishment of the processing centres has spurred interest in cassava production in local communities. Farmer Dorris Kargbo, a beneficiary of the cassava centre in Hamdalai Village says, in her community alone, about 40 farmer-groups have been formed for cassava production. Each of the groups comprises about 30 farmers each. The groups will ensure the steady supply of cassava tubers to the processing centre which will process the tubers into gari, foofoo, cassava cake and cassava doughnut among others. “This will create jobs to our people, generate wealth and reduce poverty. It is our own strategy of contributing to poverty reduction in Sierra Leone,” Kargbo says.
Traditionally, cassava tubers in Sierra Leone are harvested, boiled and eaten. The limited utilisation of cassava often times results to glut during periods of bumper harvest.
Kargbo, while expressing gratitude to the CFC/IITA/SLARI project says the processing centres have created a market that will mop up cassava in the future.
“This will reduce postharvest losses and make cassava production profitable,” she added.
Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com