opinionBy Catherine Njuguna
Kibaha — Amiri Hamisi, 22, and his brother Zuberi Hamisi, 20, from Tongwe village in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, did not complete secondary school due to lack of school fees. This limited their chances of securing good jobs and cast a gloomy picture over their future.
They turned to farming their small family farm and providing labour to surrounding farms to earn their daily bread. Their income was low and erratic.However, in the last three years things have taken a positive turn when cassava processing was initiated in the village as a way to fight poverty and hunger. Previously, the villagers sold their surplus cassava in the market as fresh roots and to middlemen who came to their farms to buy and sell the crop in big towns like Dar as Salaam and Morogoro. The prices were low.
Because it is perishable and starts rotting after three days, there was also a lot of wastage. The cassava farmers in the village, under an association known as Wambato Farmers Group (Wakulima wa Mhogo Bagamoyo Tongwe), saw an increase in their cassava production after adopting new high yielding improved varieties that were also resistant to cassava brown streak disease. They were introduced by the Roots and Tuber Programme of the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives in response to the disease which had dramatically affected the crop's production in the coastal areas in Tanzania.
In 2008, the Sokoine Agricultural University of Agriculture (SUA) introduced simple affordable processing technologies to process the surplus cassava.It constructed a processing centre with simple machines and trained the group members on production of cassava flour.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) under the Unleashing the Power of the Cassava in Africa (UPOCA) funded by USAID further trained the group in 2009 and 2010 to improve its processing to produce high quality cassava flour and cassava starch, quality control and safety issues and on packaging and marketing.
Today, the group members and their families are enjoying a greatly improved standard of living from the good income made from the sale of high quality cassava flour to supermarkets and shops in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam as well as around the village.
The group processes cassava twice a week and employs young people such as Amiri and Zuberi to provide labour. It also buys cassava from the surrounding farmers at a much better price than the middle men. Amiri and Zuberi, motivated by the ready market for cassava and the extra income earned from working at the processing centre providing labour, have each leased land to grow the crop which they sell to the group.
They now have no intention of migrating to an urban centre to look for employment. Rural poverty is one of the drivers of urban to rural migration as young people move to towns in search of jobs. Value addition of farming products, ranging from simple washing and peeling to drying to processing into high value marketable products, creates jobs and increases income. It is one of the ways out of poverty and hunger.
Processing creates more income as the products fetch more money. Farmers then have more money to invest in agriculture, buy better seeds and fertilisers.This in turn increases their production, their income leading to a whole cycle of improvements. They are also better able to meet their family needs and educate their children giving them a better future.
The author is Regional Corporate Communications Officer, IITA