Alleviating Poverty Via Cassava Cultivation And Processing

CassavaThe Ada West District is fairly new with a population of 59,124 as per the 2010 Population and Housing Census. Though the district is presently not a beneficiary of any class advantage in the area of commerce or industry, it has rich agricultural potentials in its wide stretch of fertile, arable land that is ideal for the cultivation of various crops.

The economy of the district is predominantly agrarian, with approximately 42.5% of the population engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing. The sector provides employment for about 42.5% of the people.

Agriculture constitutes the main economic activity and a major source of livelihood for the majority of people in the district through direct farming, distribution and marketing of farm produce and other services to the agricultural sector.

The main agricultural activities here are crop farming (48.1%) livestock rearing (36.5%), and fishing and agro-forestry.

With the exception of the coastal communities of Lolonya, Goi, Anyamam, Akplabanya and Wekumagbe and their satellite communities, most of the towns and villages constituting the Ada West District rely primarily on cassava cultivation as their main source of livelihood.

Cassava is consumed by millions of people in the tropics. It can grow in extremely poor, acidic soils and is one of the most productive food plants in terms of carbohydrate production per unit of land.

The plant grows from about one to three metres in height with over five thousand varieties each of which has its own distinctive qualities, is adapted to different environmental conditions, matures between six to twelve months depending on variety and ecological conditions, and can be harvested at any time in the following two years.

However, in the Ada West District, only four of the varieties are commonly cultivated by the farmers. These are Lagos, Afisiafi, Ankra and Bankyehema. Apart from the Lagos variety, the rest were introduced through an initiative of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) known as the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAPP) over five years ago.

However, Lagos is the most extensively cultivated.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

OF CASSAVA

Cassava tubers are rich in carbohydrates (30-35 percent), and low in protein (1-2 percent) and fat(less than 1 percent).They contain (50mg 100g) calcium, (40mg/100g) phosphorous as well as good quality protein and highly digestible starch. The leaves are a good source of protein (23percent), vitamins and minerals.

Cassava provides about 30 percent of   roots and tubers worldwide, and is the staple crop of over 200 million people in Africa alone. It has an enormous potential to provide food energy in areas like Africa where the production of adequate food is a serious challenge.

Cassava has several uses; in the district, it is processed into cassava dough, gari, yakayake, kokonte, agbeli kaklo, akyeke (local Ghanaian delicacies), starch, whilst the peel waste is used as feed for ruminants. Cassava dough, gari and kokonte processing are understandably higher than other processed products from cassava because of the local consumption.

The leaves are used as fodder for domestic goats and the dry stems as fuel wood on some farm settlements.

Currently, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Food Research Institute (CSIR-FRI) in collaboration with Greenwich –Natural Resources Institute are piloting one of their flagship projects: -Cassava Adding Value for Africa (C: AVA) to develop sustainable cassava value chain, increase incomes of smallholder farmers, reduce poverty, ensure food security and boost the economy at both the district and national level by reducing physical loses through fresh cassava storage, adding value through processing and improved utilization of cassava wastes by turning it into consumable products.

Unfortunately, the Ada West District would not have the opportunity to benefit from this project at this moment because the project is expected to end in December, 2014. That notwithstanding, the Ada West District Department of Agriculture could still liaise with the Food Research Institute for possible transfer of knowledge on methodology and technology on that flagship project for the benefit of the district.

 

ADDING VALUE TO CASSAVA

Because of its many uses, cassava can be processed for commercial purposes into the form of composite flour, manufacturing of biscuit, noodles, baby foods, alcoholic drinks, thickening agent in stews and soups, sizzling in textiles, manufacturing of gum, meat sausages and many more. This is very important because it enables the products to have an extended shelf life up to a maximum of one year.

The basic equipment for processing in cassava includes grater, press, mill, sifter and dryer which can be acquired through special schemes by farmer groups or with the support of NGOs in the agricultural sector.

 

INVESTING IN CASSAVA

There are opportunities for investors cassava cultivation in the district such as available litigation-free farming land and an employable and   vibrant labour force.

With intensive mechanisation in cassava cultivation, there is likely to be increased production for both local consumption and for export.

Many Ghanaians as well as over 200 million people in Africa alone, consume cassava products as their staple diet. Any investment in cassava therefore would not only be a very productive enterprise but also trigger a series of activities that would enhance the economic well-being of the people in the district.

Cassava is not only very important as a food source but is also a pro-poor vehicle for economic development.

By Otor Plahar

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