Growing importance of cassava
In West Africa, the importance of cassava as a commodity is steadily expanding for at least 5 decades. The crop was originally a famine-reserve and rural food crop. It gained importance as food crop both for urban and rural consumers and as new cash crop for smallholders. At the moment, cassava is the main staple of many rapidly expanding urban poles in West Africa. This evolution is reflected in the contribution of the cassava economy to the region’s gross domestic product. Many subsistence and small farmers, looking for new cash crops and opportunities, are interested in growing cassava. West African Governments, as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) are giving priority to cassava in their regional agricultural development, industrialisation and poverty reduction strategies.
Stakeholders in the cassava production and marketing chains recognise that research, extension agencies and development projects were relatively successful in the area of screening and dissemination of improved planting material. However, national programs have had greater difficulty in developing and disseminating appropriate cassava processing technologies, in assisting farmers to more effectively access new markets and in structuring supply chains. On the contrary, the emerging cassava marketing chains are highly informal which leads to high unit costs and reduces competitiveness of cassava. Cassava is in competition with imported cereals, such as wheat and rice. There is a general recognition that if the processing and marketing problem is not fully addressed, it risks imperilling gains attained so far. Clearly, diagnosing processing, marketing and demand constraints and opportunities at national, regional and international level is needed to orient future efforts in the cassava sector.
The study adopted a supply chain approach in which value addition and market development of cassava products are seen as the main focus within the cassava supply chain, in which several stakeholders have their role, benefits, opportunities and constraints. The main goal is to identify opportunities to develop improved and new markets for cassava farmers, processors and better products and product access for end-users. To this end Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone were visited in September/October 2005. Stakeholders in the cassava chain and Government officials were interviewed and literature and project documents studied.
Organisation of the report
Chapter III presents a diagnosis of the cassava chain in the four countries involved. Chapter IV looks at ongoing initiatives and potential for synergy and complementarities. Chapter V summarises opportunities and constraints. Chapter VI presents a justification, rationale and strategy for interventions that take into account and build on all elements presented in previous chapters. In annexes 1 to 4, detailed diagnoses for each of the four countries involved are presented.
This report looks at the potential of traditional products and alternative products that can be produced in a competitive way on a relatively small or medium scale. The study is limited to four countries (Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone) and deals with production aspects and four categories of cassava processing and utilisation:
- consumption of traditional forms (gari, dried roots, paste, attièké) of cassava in present and new markets;
- bread, bakery products and snacks: substitution of wheat flour and product development on the basis of cassava flour;
- cassava used as animal feed in the domestic and international market;
- industrial use of cassava starch/flour and derivatives (ethanol, glucose syrups, industrial use in textile, paperboard, etc...).