Date of release: Friday, June 21, 2013

Cassava Project 2013

Some of the world's poorest farmers are taking advantage of new opportunities to increase their incomes, thanks to an ambitious new project led by the university's Natural Resources Institute (NRI).

Working alongside partner organisations in five African countries, scientists at NRI hope to enable small-holders to both increase productivity and gain more income from harvesting their principal crop, cassava.

The project, known as C:AVA (Cassava: Adding Value for Africa), could help transform the livelihoods of more than 90,000 farmers, many of them women living on less than a dollar a day.

Cassava, a starchy root vegetable, is an important staple food relied on by millions in sub-Saharan Africa. Drought resistant, it thrives in poor soils with little need for fertilisers or pesticides, so is widely grown. Prices can be very low, however, as the fresh roots have a short shelf-life and are difficult to transport.

The project links smallholders to national and international markets by supporting small and medium-scale processing enterprises, which turn cassava into high-quality processed flour. This product is sold at premium prices as an alternative to expensive imported wheat flour and starches.

Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI, says: "The C:AVA project is making significant progress. We hope that the widespread adoption of this approach will contribute to lifting millions of small-holder households out of poverty."

The C:AVA project is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has contributed funding of $16.6 million.

Other key activities in the project include making new high-yielding varieties of the crop available to farmers, and training them in new labour-saving cultivation techniques. Work is also underway to develop markets for high-quality cassava flour (HQCF) as a versatile raw material, and to demonstrate to manufacturers how to use cassava flour as a full or partial replacement for wheat flour.

The project is already achieving great results in all five countries. For example, cassava flour produced as a result of project activities is being used in baking, food manufacture and the production of paperboard and plywood.

A short video about the C:AVA project is at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QujK2bXl9s

Story by Public Relations