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During the recent Global Cassava Partnership (GCP) meeting in Uganda in July 2012, a special session on the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) project was held. The session gave an opportunity for project staff to present progress made by the project and also stimulated a discussion on value chain development for tropical root and tuber crops.

The session was chaired by Professor Andrew Westby (Director of the C:AVA project), who presented the keynote paper on ‘value chain development’ during the GCP symposium, and Professor William Otim Nape (Chairman of the Africa Innovations Institute, C:AVA’s lead partner in Uganda).

The C:AVA Project Manager, Dr Kolawole Adebayo, gave an overview of the project and achievements to date. In a country by country presentation he showed that the C:AVA Project has established functioning High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) value chains based primarily on sun drying technologies in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, while in Nigeria and Ghana the project has built on previous efforts to stabilise a fragile HQCF value chain based on mechanical drying. Across all five countries these value chains have delivered more than 7,000MT of HQCF to various end-use markets, with benefits reaching more than an estimated 24,000 smallholder farmers.

Two of the C:AVA country managers, Professor Lateef Sanni (Nigeria) and Francis Alacho (Uganda), gave presentations illustrating the applicability of the C:AVA model in their relative country contexts.

In Nigeria, Professor Sanni’s presentation showed how the C:AVA Project sustained the HQCF sector after the Presidential Initiative on Cassava lost steam in 2008. He also emphasized how C:AVA’s collaboration with the current Agricultural Transformation Agenda in Nigeria has involved working with local engineers and economists to audit all 153 existing cassava processing Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This has established the feasibility of introducing an upgrading programme developed by the C:AVA project, that has already helped to keep three similar SMEs in operation throughout a period of turbulence in the policy environment. It is anticipated that this intervention will cut energy use by half and double throughput of HQCF, thereby helping the SMEs to become more competitive in the market.

In the Uganda case, Francis Alacho showed how C:AVA has been helping smallholder farmers adopt simple processing technologies (graters, presses and drying platforms), to manage basic HQCF processing practices in order to obtain both the East African Code of Practice for good standards in the food industry and the certification from the Ugandan Bureau of Standards.

Francis Alacho, Uganda Country Manager, presenting during the C:AVA session of the Global Cassava Partnership meeting in Uganda.Three additional presentations from Dr. Helena Posthumus, a Senior Research Fellow at NRI, Beatrice Mukasa, the C:AVA Uganda Gender Expert and Grace Mahende (C:AVA Country Manager for Tanzania), showed how C:AVA has used frequent monitoring as well as data obtained from dedicated studies to inform project implementation. These presentations highlighted the benefits of good understanding of the crosscutting issues, potential linkages to cassava breeding programmes and the advantages of benchmarking and comparisons in the management of a complex, multi-country, multidisciplinary and multi-organisational project.

The C:AVA project is an initiative of the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich supported with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It began in April 2008 and has been working in close collaboration with multiple partners to establish a vibrant and competitive HQCF industry based on market-led efficient production and processing, leading to a reduction in rural poverty in five African countries.