"We the Mkombozi Processing group recognise C:AVA project as our sole social and economic facilitator, C:AVA has been a mentor and a good link on our cassava processing activities. Now we can see some light in this economic path---". This was said to the Country manager and the Business Development Advisor in January, 2011 in a group discussion with the processing group. The question was how the group sees how it has progressed within the time of C:AVA project implementation.
Mkombozi processing group is located at Msijute village 16km from Mtwara town in southern Tanzania. The group was established in June 2009 with 20 active members, 60% being women. The group is one of C:AVA's 18 initial pilot groups in the Mtwara Region.
Before joining C:AVA the group had limited processing skills and no processing equipment. They were not focused on any crop specific agricultural extension services. With limited business skills, they did not know how to process high quality cassava flour (HQCF).
Since the Mkombozi group were registered with the C:AVA project, they have experienced many changes. The group is now organised and effectively linked to Agricultural extension officers from the District Agricultural Offices, the Naliendele Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) Regional offices, and other development partners.
NARI trained the group on best agricultural practices using the local cassava varieties that grow in their community. In 2009/2010, the group established 2 acres of cassava multiplication plots, which also served as a training site. "We have witnessed that improvement on cassava husbandry has increased productivity per acre from around 8 tons/acre to 17 ton/ha and 18.2tons/ha (Nakuchocha and Nakuchima respectively), as a result of the participatory field evaluation we did together with the Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute, this was like a shock to us."
SIDO and other partners mentor the group on group strengthening, business skills and cassava processing. C:AVA have supported them with processing equipment and building materials. The Mtwara Regional Commissioner and other Senior Government officials now recognise them and visit frequently.
Initially the HQCF outlet was only through the local office but now the group sell HQCF to Mtwara local markets and in Dar es Salaam.
Surrounding communities now process fresh cassava at the Mkombozi unit for household consumption, increasing group earnings. The group is gaining recognition by various agricultural stakeholders and have recently received a power tiller from the district council, which will ease tillage and tracking activities.
Due to the group's achievement, local communities are motivated to grow cassava. The Ministry of Agriculture earmarked Msijute village for the establishment of the pilot medium cassava processing industry by 2011/12 to be managed by a selected local farmer. The industry's capacity is to process fresh cassava 15-50 tons/day.