Of all the crops grown in Central Africa, cassava has the strongest potential to increase food security, generate greater benefits for farmers from value addition and foster regional trade. The Regional Forum on Cassava in Central Africa organised at the end of the year by CTA and its partners examined how to develop a regional value chain that can tap into these opportunities, creating jobs and income for a large number of people.
With production of more than 40 million t in Central Africa, cassava is a key crop for the region, providing a rich source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to millions of people, especially those in the region's rapidly growing cities. Aside from its place as a staple in local diets, cassava is also used in animal feed, and as a raw material for industrial processing. It also offers promising scope as an ingredient to substitute imported commodities, in food and beverage products such as beer, flour and crisps, reducing foreign exchange demand, increasing food sovereignty and generating local employment and revenues. Another important attribute is cassava's resilience to climate change, able to withstand periods of drought and to thrive in soil with low fertility.
"Cassava is a truly remarkable crop, and although production in Central Africa accounts for almost one-third of output in the whole of Africa, the region has only scratched the surface in terms of taking advantage of all the opportunities that cassava has to offer," said Michael Hailu, Director of CTA. "This forum provided a chance for the many different actors to come together and share their experiences, with the ultimate goal of shaping a strong regional value chain for cassava."
The Cassava Forum brought together around 120 participants drawn from different strands of the Central African cassava value chain, as well as NGOs, researchers, financiers and policymakers involved in developing the sector. As part of the hands-on nature of the event, training sessions on cross-cutting areas such as social media, knowledge management, innovative value chain finance and forming effective inter-professional organisations were provided.
As well as undertaking field visits (organised to demonstrate innovations in the production, small-scale processing, industrial and semi-industrial processing, marketing, packaging, standards and financing), participants were invited to attend a series of business-to-business (B2B) meetings to promote networking and forge closer links between producers, traders, processors, agribusinesses and financial institutions.
In addition to calling for greater investment in research and extension, the Forum’s final recommendations also highlighted the importance of improving public policies and links with agribusiness, including promoting the development of public-private partnerships, implementation of insurance and adapted financing systems, and encouraging the development of quality standards. Other recommendations focused on the need to improve the integration of women and young people in the value chain, including by training young people in the use of ICTs to better access markets, and facilitating the development of ICT applications and start-ups offering agricultural services.
Held from 6-9 December 2016 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, the Regional Forum on Cassava in Central Africa was organised by CTA and the Plateforme Sous-Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d'Afrique Centrale (PROPAC), with support from the Regional Centre of Applied Research for the Development of Farming Systems in Central Africa (PRASAC), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), the Agricultural Investment and Market Development Project (PIDMA), the Cameroon Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), and the Cameroon Ministry of Mines and Technological Development (MINMIDT).
For more information, visit: http://www.cta.int/en/news/regional-forum-on-cassava-in-central-africa.html