By Johan Burger
In Uganda, 74% of farming households grow cassava. Cassava is staple African food produce that is suitable for intercropping, especially with maize. It is grown throughout the year round. Cassava is an important crop grown for both food and income. It produces the highest amount of starch per unit area relative to other crops. It can also grow under marginal environmental conditions with limited external inputs. This makes it suitable for a wide category of farmers.
However, the vast majority of Ugandan cassava farmers (96%) do not have access to high quality planting material. Most love in poor communities with limited connect with the market. To make matters worse, cassava cultivation is vulnerable to viral diseases resulting in low yield and low-quality output. But now a new training has facilitated the acceptance and adoption of the new cassava varieties by Ugandan farmers.
A functional cassava seed project was created in northern Uganda among refugee-hosting communities for the sustainable production of cassava in the target project areas. The aim of the project is to reduce hunger and poverty among refugee communities. Quality cassava planting materials are produced in a decentralised manner by farmers groups who accessed clean seed procured from the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI). Potential farmers groups were identified and trained in technical and business management skills.
To increase the chances of success, farmers are given training in various aspects of growing more resilient variety of cassava. This includes advice and training on procurement of basic cassava seed; establishment of cassava seed multiplication farms; marketing of the quality planting materials; and linkages with other institutions to facilitate technical follow up, quality control and certification.
This approach has enabled smallholder farmers to access affordable quality planting materials of the improved cassava varieties. The new varieties can raise the cassava production by up to 30 to 40 tons per hectare, increasing yields by 40%.
In some areas, delays in distributing approved planting materials to farmers have led to a high demand, which encourages the active participation of the private sector in the production, distribution, and marketing of the improved varieties.
Farmers groups dealing in cassava stakes as a business are thriving. With efficient field management, the cassava stems are ready for initial harvest six months after planting.
In another initiative, the Ugandan government signed an MoU with the Archdiocese of Gulu and eight district local governments to boost the commercialisation of cassava in Northern Uganda. The project aims at contributing towards the “economic transformation of Northern Uganda through improved cassava production and value addition for better livelihoods and increased household incomes of the people in Northern Uganda.” The Archbishop of Gulu, John Baptist Odama, says his Archdiocese will promote cooperatives and engage more farmers to participate in the supply of planting materials. He urged the government to speed up the establishment of the cassava processing facility at the township of Acholibur to provide a ready market for the cassava produced in the region. So far over 30 cooperatives have been established in Pader, the epicentre of the project. The Ugandan government has so far injected US$2.23m in the cassava commercialization project for the last three years, providing farmers with improved high yield and disease resistant plant materials.
Anon. 2021. NAADS sings MOU with Gulu Archdiocese to promote commercialization of Cassava in Northern Uganda. National Agricultural Advisory Services. 6 September 2021. Available at https://naads.or.ug/naads-signs-mou-with-gulu-archdiocese-to-promote-commercialization-of-cassava-in-northern-uganda/. Accessed 20 November 2021.
Katongole, G. 2021. Uganda: The hidden wealth in Cassava. The Monitor. 18 September 2021. Available at https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/magazines/farming/the-hidden-wealth-in-cassava-3554234. Accessed 20 November 2021.