Seedling multiplication of disease free cassava varieties to be accessible to rural farmers in arid and semi-arid region Taita Taveta

There is an urgent need to solve hunger, poverty and the problem of malnutrition that is prevalent among young children & women in Africa. Cassava, being a drought resistant plant, has a great potential to solve these problems in arid & semi-arid regions. Farmers can pull out of poverty providing we help them to increase cassava productivity.

Growing in a semi-arid community cassava is mainly portrayed as a crop for the poor. However it has been one of the crops feeding large numbers of households in our community. Cassava is a drought resistant plant but farmers face challenges of accessing disease-free cassava seedling varieties .

Currently over 85% of planting materials are disseminated through farmer-to-farmer exchanges. This has been a problem because diseases are transmitted through infected plant material and cause losses of up to 70% of the crop, severely reducing yields. This creates a cycle, which is repeated, in each planting season. Access to clean virus-free planting material is a challenge especially when farmers share diseased planting material from their yields, harvest after harvest.

To help reduce this stress Organic ilemba intends to acquire improved seedling varieties from our one of our partners, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research organization (KALRO). We will identify 5 young multipliers who will undertake cassava seedling multiplication. Our goal is to reach 200 rural farmers in our first 18 months. We plan to provide access to clean cassava varieties to semi-arid community farmer’s in Taita Taveta County. By reaching a large number of targeted farmers in the area they can plant cassava for commercial use and later scale-up with the profit we will get from doing value addition on cassava. One multiplier is required to allocate 1Ha to do seedling multiplication. With that he/she will be able to distribute to 40 farmers with 1,500 cuttings per farm after a period of 6-7 months. The multipliers will be able to harvest over 40MT/Ha in the same period. With this a farmer will earn between ($800 to 1,500) from selling cassava tubers. Our target is to harvest more than 4,200MT from 205 rural farmers in the first 18 months. We will then scale out to 2,000 farmers over the next 3 years.

Our 4 core pillars are: 1. Rain Water Harvesting.  2. Smart Irrigation. 3. Mechanical Farming.  4. Value Addition. The four pillars will enable us to make this project to a success.

Drip irrigation systems create no pollution and no runoff. By using this system for our multipliers, the muitiplier can certainly ensure good water management. Utilization of a drip irrigation system type provides other benefits for both the farmer and crop production;

Drip Irrigation = Smart Irrigation – Saves water, improves growth, discourages weeds and diseases, reduces maturity period, slows down salinization and increases yields.

Cassava production in East Africa is mostly in the hands of smallholder farmers who depend on costly manual labour. Mechanization in cassava production will make the intensive labour and drastically more easy and reduce the challenges of the arid and semi- arid climate rural farmers face on those areas, that’s why we are focusing on small-scale mechanization for farms of 0.2 -1Ha on this project. Additional processing of the plant will help reduce food loss as cassava cannot spend more than 48hour after harvest: it loses starch and also becomes more toxic which will be harmful for human consumption. The way to make dry chips under the sun is the most economical way, but this way lots of chips are wasted due to mould and during transportation, and the quality of materials are low.

The value addition of the plant and its final yield would be much higher if we could process the tubers into flour or starch, this way the product quality is high. This way the profit generated from the tubers will be much higher and will increase rural farmers income.

Cassava is an important staple food crop mainly grown in limited acreage in the marginal and semi-arid areas that constitute over 80% of the country and is grown by resource poor small-scale farmers who are food insecure and live in poverty. The agricultural potential of these marginal areas remain untapped and the consumption and marketing of cassava is still in a raw state with no value addition and is confined to local villages and nearby markets.

Cassava, is grown on approximately 77,502 Ha with an annual production of 841,196 tons for food and income and has the potential of making Kenya realize its 2030 goals in the marginal and Semi-Arid areas. The majority of small-scale farmers in these areas are women. In the marginal areas of Coast Province, where 64% of the poor depend on cassava for their livelihoods, the economic potential of cassava remains unexploited and underutilized. Cassava has potential not only as food for humans, but also as feed for livestock and as a substrate for bio-fuel production. However, the major factors that hinder cassava’s potential are;

  • Unavailability of clean disease free planting material,
  • Lack of a sustained seed propagation system,
  • Poor soil fertility,
  • Inappropriate cropping systems, and
  • Lack of a viable functional value addition chain linking farmers to both local and international markets.

This project seeks to scale up the production of disease free planting material of improved cassava varieties, establish a sustained cassava production system for food and feed production, empower youth and women farmer groups to produce quality cassava seed and operate sustained cassava business, integrate legumes into cassava cropping systems and create an innovative value addition chain for utilization of cassava.

My efforts to support farmers access to virus free varieties which can withstand harsh climate, along with my aligned vision of commercializing cassava farming, will be a major contribution to food security, increasing income generation potential through marketing of traditional and processed cassava products, and driving rural development through industrial cassava production for food and industrial purposes.


Nephory Mwambai, Kenya

3 comments

  1. This cassava project is a noble project worth of investing in. The area of implimentation is very timely selected for such project. Taita Taveta basically had it’s way of food production mainly serals like maize, beans, cowpies, among others. Due to climatic changes the society has to seek alternative way of bringing food on the table. Casava can be a good stach supliment at the lowerlands where the soil has not been destroyed by inorganic and non biodegradable matter. I the organic ilembe has an answer for the population in the region.

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