Friday, September 13, 2013

Cassava more popular among the older populations in major cities in Tanzania

Over a half of the population in the three major cities in Tanzania eat cassava but nearly everyone eats maize.Furthermore, the hardy root crop, was found to be more popular among the older people who preferred  it in the form of ‘ugali’ made from its flour while the young population mostly ate it boiled.

Dr Adebayo Abass, IITA's value addition specialist briefs the cassava processors on the harmonized cassava flour standard

There is therefore a huge potential to increase the market for cassava in the country by getting more people to eat it especially the urban youth says Dr Adebayo Abass, a value chain specialist from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). 
Dr Abass was speaking at a recent training on standards for cassava flour in East Africa for cassava processors from Kigoma, Pwani and Mwanza regions held at the Lake Zone Agricultural Research Institute (LZARD) in Mwanza. The five East Africa countries harmonized their standards for cassava and potato and their products to facilitate cross-border trade.
Dr Abass said the study commissioned by IITA and conducted by Consumer Insight, asked 1,464 people in the major cities in Tanzania the important crops in their daily food. Over a half of them, 53% said they ate cassava compared to 100% of maize. 65% of them said they ate it boiled cassava while 67% consumed it as a stiff porridge ‘ugali’ made from the flour. 
Anna Mhalu from the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (second from left) oversees the practical session during the training on standards.
 “Looking at age differences, a majority of the young people between 18-24 consumed boiled cassava while among the older generation, most preferred to eat ugali made from its flour. Most of the younger people (70%)said they would like to eat cassava ugali, if the flour was white and not smelly” he said.
According to the researcher, ugali made from some traditional cassava flour is smelly while the modern processing method developed by IITA through and tested in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperation (MAFC) and the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Center (TFNC) and other partners gives non-smelly cassava ugali.
According to the study, conducted between May and July 2013, the region with the highest consumers of cassava was Mwanza and mostly in the form of cassava ugali. It was least popular in Arusha possibly because the cassava flour available in the market is grey in color (33%).
Looking at quality issues, the study found that 44% of the population wanted the cassava flour to be finely milled, 33% said they did not want smelly flour and 30% wanted it white in colour. And when asked where they wanted to buy their flour, majority said at the kiosks in the neighborhood. Only 9% said the supermarkets. Two thirds of the people interviewed also said they found it difficult to find the cassava flour because it was not available in the kiosks.
The processors spread the dried cassava mash on a raised platform to keep off livestock and dust to avoid contamination of the floor and preferably on dry black plastic bags which trap heat hastening the drying process.
Abass further advised the processors, “Looking at the whole population, majority want the flour to be white and finely milled. No one wants grey and smelly flour. That is how you should process your flour. Many of you have been targeting supermarkets, now you need to start considering the kiosks– the small shops within the residences.”
Dr Abass also added that a majority of those interviewed said that they did not want the cassava and maize flours mixed together by the processors. They prefer to buy each separately and mix at home themselves as they wish. They also preferred the packing to be in one kg packets.
The training was conducted by researchers from IITA and Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) with funds from Association for Strengthening Agriculture Research in East and Central Africa, (ASARECA).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Agripreneurs explore opportunities in the seed sector

Diversity of cowpea seeds

Members of the IITA Youth project have explored opportunities in the seed sector, making visits to seed companies across Nigeria. The exploratory visits in 2012 were aimed at exposing them to the potential in the seed sector.

“Plans are underway for these young people to join the Nigerian seed companies in providing farmers with high quality seeds/planting materials (for IITA commodities such as maize, cowpea, soybean, cassava, yam, and banana/plantain) in the first instance,” says Dr Gbassey Tarawali, Representative of the DG and DDG (P&CD), who is working closely with them.

Seed companies visited were Da-AllGreen Ltd, Premier Seeds Nigeria Ltd, Nagari Seeds Nigeria Ltd, Savannah Seeds Ltd, National Agricultural Seed Council, Sun Seed and Springfield Agro Ltd, Maslaha Seed Co., Terratiga Ltd, Seed Project Co. Ltd, Maina Seeds Ltd, and Manoma Seeds Co.

During the visit, the Agripreneurs were able to understand the challenges facing the seed sector and came back with plans on how to overcome those challenges.

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs project was initiated by Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, in 2012. The project aims to unlock the potential in agriculture by attracting and engaging young men and women in agribusiness to create decent employment opportunities comparable to those for their colleagues in the banking, oil, and communication sectors.

Strategic thinkers to propose IITA youth model to Government

Dr Okechukwu receives a plaque on behalf of DG Sanginga
from NIPSS team
Members of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru, near Jos, Nigeria, will present the IITA model of engaging the youth in agriculture to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan.

The delegation praised IITA for the concept, emphasizing that the model would be part of the recommendations that would be submitted to the President as part of strategies to tackle food security and unemployment, especially among young people.

“The youth program offers opportunities and we will recommend to Mr President that it should be replicated,” says Mr Jonathan Juma, leader of the delegation.

The Directing Staff, NIPSS, Brigadier General Johnny Hamakim, noted that IITA was strategic for Africa, adding that a visit to the Institute was imperative for the team to make informed decisions on food security in Africa.

Welcoming the delegation to IITA on behalf of DG Sanginga, the Coordinator of Cassava Transformation at IITA, Dr. Richardson Okechukwu thanked the team for coming and seeking inputs from researchers.

He explained the vision and mission of the Institute under the revised strategy, and also highlighted the milestones recorded by IITA towards addressing the constraints of development both in Nigeria and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

NIPSS is a policy formation center for bureaucrats, private sector leaders, and Army officers, among others.

This year’s visit to IITA was facilitated by Sylvia Oyinlola and Toyin Oke. The delegation had the opportunity to tour the IITA campus. Among places visited were: the Genetic Resources Center, IITA forest, aflasafe factory, banana/plantain unit, and the Postharvest Unit. They also had a taste of the 40% cassava bread.

“Take opportunities in baking bread with 40 percent cassava”

The Head of the Hotel and Catering Unit of IITA, Mr Samiran Mazumdar, has unveiled the opportunities in including cassava in baking, with a call on the IITA Agripreneurs to take advantage of the technology.

In a lecture on 23 August 2013, he encouraged them to be actively involved in initiatives that would promote the inclusion of cassava in making bread and confectionary.

He highlighted the benefits from including cassava as follows: employment creation, food self-sufficiency, and food security, and called on the Agripreneurs to be innovative in terms proffering ways that would disseminate the technology far and wide.

As developed by IITA, the inclusion of 40 percent cassava flour in baking aims at diversifying the uses of the root crop. The Nigerian Government estimates foreign exchange savings of over N250 billion annually from a cut in wheat imports.

Other benefits include a better price for cassava and improved livelihoods for cassava farmers.

Mr Mazumdar urged the Agripreneurs to consider marketing the cassava bread in kiosks located at strategic locations in Nigeria, baking and/or being actively involved in raising awareness on the economic and health benefits of including cassava in food.

Other resource persons who gave presentations were IITA biometrician, Mr Sam Korie, and IITA Postharvest Engineer, Mr Thierno Diallo.

One year of IITA Youth Agripreneurs

IITA Agripreneurs in their cassava field

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs are a group of young graduates involved in agribusiness, with the aim of being a unit that would serve as a model to other young people planning to venture into agribusiness and becoming the trainer of trainers. Within one year of their existence, they have established many hectares of maize, cassava, and soybean and also plantain/banana fields. They have also multiplied plantain suckers in the macropropagation chamber. They have managed to bridge the gender inequality gap in the team, with their present number standing at 11 men and 10 women.

The activities of the group cut across the value-chains of different crops including cassava, maize, plantain/banana, and soybean. For cassava, the Youth Agripreneurs  are into stem multiplication and root production. For maize and soybean, their focus is on seed multiplication (both certified and foundation seeds), whereas for the plantain/banana, they are into sucker multiplication and fruit production.

The uniqueness of the team lies in the heterogeneity of the disciplines inherent therein, ranging across the Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences. After a meeting with the IFAD President, Dr Kanayo Nwanze, intended to spur youth involvement towards sustainable agriculture, the members of the National Youth Service Corps who were then serving in IITA, Ibadan, under the guidance of the Director-General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, responded with enthusiasm to the call on 28 August 2012.

The project began with a series of activities, such as attending seminars and training within and outside the
Institute, including a workshop organized by UNIDO in Songhai. Visits to seed companies, most of them in the northern part of Nigeria, were also made. The project has had visitors from various organizations, USAID, UNIDO, FARA, NIPSS, etc., to mention a few.

The Agripreneurs look forward to collaborating with sponsors and investors, as one of their future plans is to expand their production. They wish to become self-independent and self-employed, having acquired the necessary knowledge and skills, and ultimately become employers of labour.

Niji Farms encourages Agripreneurs’ interest in agriculture

IITA Agripreneurs and Malawian farmers in group photo at
Niji Farms

A learning visit to the cassava farm, over 3000 ha, owned and managed by a young Nigerian, Mr Kola Adeniji, was tiring but also inspiring.

Mr Adeniji , who sits at the head of the Board of Niji Farms, is one of those successful young farmers in Nigeria.

He told the visitors, “We are redefining agriculture… many people look down on farmers but we want to change that.”

The factory processes cassava into High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), odourless fufu flour, and gari. The gari and fufu are exported to countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada. Apart from having a vast hectarage , Niji Farms is fully automated, yet built on indigenous technology.

“We believe that what is needed to develop Africa is in Africa… so we try as much as possible to have 100 percent local content,” Mr Adeniji said.

The visit gave the Agripreneurs the opportunity to have an overview of Niji farm, to see how Mr Adeniji managed his farm, and also the types of machinery he used for the processing of food products.

Mr Adeniji noted that he was inspired to invest in agriculture after coming in contact with IITA and thanked the Institute for supporting his farm with improved cassava planting materials.

Although the farm mostly grows cassava, Mr Adeniji has also forayed into growing maize and keeping livestock.

“I am looking at integrating all the areas of agriculture … to making a model farm,” he said.

IITA Agripreneurs who visited the farm testified that the farm is a perfect example, demonstrating that agriculture indeed pays off.

Cassava flour maker wants the Agripreneurs to ‘have big dreams’

Thai Farms... Nigeria’s biggest cassava flour maker

Thai Farm Nigeria Ltd, makers of cassava flour, has urged the IITA Agripreneurs to have a vision about investments in agriculture. The Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director, Mr Louw Burger, gave the advice during their learning visit to the factory on 27 August 2013.

On the team also were Malawian cassava processors and the IITA Communication Officer, Mr. Godwin Atser.

In his presentation, Mr Burger encouraged the team to have big dreams, stating that the challenges faced while carrying out small projects are the same as those encountered in bigger undertakings.

He gave a talk on how Thai Farm came into being, the firm’s success stories, as well as its present challenges. He explained the processes involved in the conversion of cassava roots to High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), and highlighted the uses of the by-products.

The team raised questions which were satisfactorily answered. At the factory, a detailed tour was taken, with the guests seeing all the processes involved in the making of HQCF, right from root testing (i.e., testing starch content of the cassava roots) to the packaging of the end product. Mr Burger also shared some of his expansion plans with the visitors. Two members of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs, Bekee Barituka and Lamidi Funmilola, said the visit was educative and inspiring. They were grateful for the opportunity to see cassava processing on a large scale and its potential in creating employment and wealth.

Youth concept excites top USAID officials

IITA youths and USAID officials

The Director, Office of Agricultural Research and Policy, Bureau for Food Security USAID, Dr Rob Bertram; and the Senior Agricultural Specialist, Economic Growth and Environment Office USAID Nigeria, Howard Batson, paid a 3-day courtesy visit to the institute between 14–16 July 2013. The delegation visited the Youth Agripreneurs office and listened to presentations about the group’s history, achievements, plans, etc. Both were impressed with the Agripreneur concept and commended the IITA Management for the initiative. Howard wrote in the visitors’ log: “Great potential waiting to take off,” while Dr Bertram had this to say: “Very exciting to see young people engaged in agribusiness development.”

“Put on your thinking caps”

IITA youths addressing FARA officials

The new Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA), Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, has urged members of the IITA Youth project to harness the diversity of skills inherent among them for agricultural development.

He gave this counsel in Ibadan during his first official visit to IITA on 2 August 2013. Accompanied by other FARA executives: Dr Aggrey Agumya, Technical Adviser; Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Deputy Executive Director; and Prof. Adewale Adekunle, Director of partnerships, the new FARA boss could not hide his excitement over the youth project.

He also urged the youth to always “put on their thinking caps” and judiciously utilize the services ICT renders. Prof.  Adekunle in his remarks enjoined the Agripreneurs to channel much of their effort towards adding value to crops cultivated, thus diversifying their consumption forms. “It would be great to find the foods we enjoyed in the villages, repackaged and available in stores and supermarkets,” he said.

The Youth made a presentation on: “Income Generation and Youth Employment,” and gave an overview of the objectives and current operations of the project.

In his closing remarks, the Executive Director congratulated the team for a great job, and reiterated the desire of FARA to work with them.

Agripreneurs trained on plantain/banana production

Youths during banana/plantain training
Members of the IITA Youth in Agriculture project have been trained on banana and plantain production. The training, which involved 11 members of the group, was held on 23 January, and cut across the value chain of banana/plantain with the following themes: Why invest in plantains/banana? Setting up plantain/ banana macro-propagation and field cultivation, pests and diseases affecting the crop, and how to control them. Plantain (Musa spp.) are the green, starchy cousins of the banana. Unlike banana, plantains are not sweet and are eaten cooked, rather than raw. Originating in Southeast Asia, plantains are now grown in subtropical and tropical regions around the world.

The macro propagation of plantains/banana is a relatively easy technique that is carried out in a shed. It consists of generating suckers from clean planting material by removing the apical dominance which will generate about 30-40 suckers between 3 months. These techniques are simple and therefore easy to grasp, and cheap to establish with minimum investment in construction of propagators and weaning facilities.

“Youth of the biggest challenges”

IITA DG, Dr Sanginga addressing youths in Ibadan

Among the challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa is the spiralling rate of unemployment among the growing youth population. Reports from the Africa Economic Outlook indicate that 60% of the continent’s unemployed are aged between 15 and 24 and more than half of these, many of them women, have given up efforts to find work.

The situation is likely to worsen if nothing is done to halt the trend as the numbers are set to double by 2045.For Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, “Youth unemployment in Nigeria is a critical national issue and is one of the biggest challenges.” In Kenya, youth unemployment has reached crisis proportions with an estimated 64% of unemployed persons younger than 25years old. The resigned idleness of rural youth is also in evidence in DR Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia where poor incentives exist to better one’s life through hard work. A few hours of “routine” morning efforts in home food gardens are followed by aimless socializing in  local canteens. To address this concern, IITA under the leadership of Dr Nteranya Sanginga has initiated a youth program as a model to address unemployment using agriculture as a tool. The plan is to encourage the youth to tap the many opportunities inherent in agriculture. The project exposes young graduates to the different opportunities in agriculture and allows them to identify entry points in the agricultural value chains where they could play a role. At the core is capacity building for the young that propels independent thinking and engenders problem solving.