Cassava is a woody shrub that is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy root. Cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world, with Africa its largest centre of production. The NRI is at the forefront of research to help rural farmers and processors gain improved incomes from the commercialisation of cassava. The interdisciplinary approach aims to evaluate opportunities not only for technical feasibility, but also for economic return and social impact. Commercialisation is not just about issues of enterprise development, but also considers the importance of current processing systems for household incomes and the role of women within such systems.
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Research activity by the NRI has focused on technical, social and business aspects of cassava based products and market systems. Successful uptake has had a major impact on the livelihoods of the poor. In Ghana cassava farmers have increased their incomes by 150-200% through sales of high quality cassava flour. Rural bakers have improved gross profits margins by 107 percent. The new project will build on the existing C:AVA project to expand the number of countries from five to seven and also to diversify market outlets for farmers. The project will build on the proven approach of enabling farming households to process their cassava, by grating and drying it, and so adding value at the household level. Women in particular are expected to benefit from the initiative. In additional countries, opportunities still exist for cassava flour to replace wheat flour. ¬£500,000 a year for five years would allow C:AVA to be developed in Mozambique and Congo, improving the livelihoods of more than 25,000 small holder households. ¬£200,000 a year for five years would allow C:AVA to diversify the use of cassava flour in existing C:AVA counties benefiting approximately 10,000 additional small-holder households.
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