Tanzania to reap economic fortunes from cassava sub-sector

26Mar 2020
Correspondent
Dodoma
The Guardian
Tanzania to reap economic fortunes from cassava sub-sector

​​​​​​​BEING among few countries in the world endowed with favourable weather and soil to support smooth growing of cassava tubers, Tanzania has yet to engage and invest purposeful in order to fetch economic fortunes the sub-sector has to offer.

Dodoma regional director for TCCIA Idd Senge, shows a cassava tuber yield at TCCIA' s farm in Mkalama, Singida. 

Today, the country is the twelfth largest producer of cassava in the world and the sixth in the continent after Nigeria, DRC, Ghana, Angola and Mozambique.

Latest statistics depicts that the sub-sector employs at least 1.3 million smallholder farmers in the country, whereby between 2012 and 2006, a total of 59,447,754 tonnes of cassava tubers were produced and sold abroad, won back USD 4,804,926.

While future annual demand for cassava in Tanzania currently stands  between 530, 00 and 630,000 tonnes, the country’s relevant production capacity remains at 6.8 million tonnes.

In Tanzania, for many years, the crop was being cultivated in low ebb in few regions by attracting less number of farmers who cultivated the tubers for the purpose of feeding their households, only ‘few’ farmers were commercially oriented.

With time elapsed, development of industries throughout the world propelled to high demand and market for cassava tubers, especially targeting the tubers’ starchy which is key raw material in beer and beverages, sweets and snacks, textile factories, paper mills and hardboards, paint and pharmaceuticals industries.

However, following the projected increased future demand for cassava in the world market, the government of Tanzania has prepared several viable strategies to transform  performance of the key economic sub-sector.

COMMERCIALISATION OF CASSAVA SECTOR

To boost up the sector, the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT)'s Cassava Compact have joined efforts and expertise in a special quest scale- out to the value chain actors proven technologies such as improved high -yielding varieties and innovative processing techniques to transform cassava in the country into an industrial crop and address setbacks haunting farmers of the tuber.

The move, under full cooperation from the Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP II), among others, targets to introduce best technologies and technical support to enable the private sector to make investments in profitable cassava production and processing.

Moreover, the main focus is also to develop effective mechanisms to address the challenges being faced to transform cassava into a commercial crop and improve the income of smallholder farmers and support the country towards achieving the Development Vision 2025.

According to relevant records from the Agriculture Ministry, while cassava was the second most important subsistence food crop after maize, with at least 84 per cent of the total production in the country used for food consumption, its farm level productivity was remaining poor, hence the need of serious intervention.

 To commercialise the sector, there will be major improvements in technologies to process cassava into varied value- added products of high financial returns on investment, such as chips, starchy, and flour which could be further processed to sweeteners, adhesives, biscuits, noodles, breads and cakes.

Moreover, under the Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP II), cassava is one of priority commodity value chains for Lakes, Eastern, and Southern zones, under the ‘One Region One Commodity’ initiative.

However, TARI- in its Mikocheni's Dar as Salaam laboratory since 2011 embarked on key preliminary researches of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) for cassava seeds, which is currently at a level of Confined Field Trial.

GMO are plants used in agriculture the DNA of which has been modified using genetic cases the aim being to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.

In similar efforts, TARI - (Makutupora) is in efforts to innovate new hybrid and quality seed variety.

Currently, there are only three reliable quality cassava seed varieties in Tanzania, namely, Mumba, Makutupora, and Hombolo.  

Granting an interview to 'The Guardian' Supervisor of  (TARI- Makutupora)’s Tuber Crops Research Programme (Cassava Demonstration Plot), Dr Mary Steven, said cassava was the key economic sector, but its performance in the country was still crippled by several factors, primarily, absence of hybrid seed variety.

She expressed a need for the government to allocate more budgets in order to empower tuber crops experts to engage into more serious seeds researches.

However, she sounded optimisms that on- going efforts by relevant experts at the state- owned center will ultimately put a challenge of quality seed varieties to an end.

“Currently, there are at least 15 cassava tuber seed varieties that we are researching in our demonstration farm, and three of them are doing well into the market,” she expressed. 

According to her, others (still in research) are Kiroba, Kizimbani, Pwani Mkumba, Mkuranga, Kipusa-Cheneko, and Dodoma.

Establishment of association of cassava farmers and processors

To achieve rapid cassava intensification through raising farm - level productivity, improving the efficiency of processing, and increasing market opportunity for the actors, Tan Trade has so far established a special association to support cassava farmers and processors.

The association aimed at ensuring Tanzania benefit from expanded market for the tubers, and its’ starchy, as highly demanded in the world market, especially in China. 

Edwin Rutageruka, Director General for Tan Trade, said the association will operate with major focus to increase production and productivity of cassava among farmers from across the country, added that basic idea was to increase performance of the farmers, but also, additional value to the tubers produced in Tanzania.

“The association will run its interventions under the fully shadow of Tan Trade to ensure the farmers are in access to requisite farming inputs and agronomic practices,” he expressed.

Investments in cassava processing industries

Increased wave over demand for cassava tubers starchy from within and outside the country have necessitated for investments of high profile cassava processing factories in different regions. While Tanga and Lindi regions have already witnessed establishment of large processing plants, plans are afoot for similar investments in other regions, including Dodoma and Singida regions.

The on-going investment pace into the sector, largely by foreign investors, has stimulated mass growing of cassava tubers due to assured markets among farmers.

For instance, China have placed order to annually procure at least 2million of cassava starchy from Tanzania, which means, the country must work round the clock to improve its capacity in tuber cultivation and starchy grinding.

During the ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) 2018, most of Chinese traders also expressed interest of landing in the county and invest largely n cassava processing factories.

Opening of larger plantations

In response to larger demand for cassava tubers in local and the world market, most farmers in regions were the cash crops flourish healthier have so far embarked on larger plantations.

For instances, in Dodoma, the regional Tanzania Chamber for Commerce, Industrial and Agriculture (TCCIA) has decided go take a lead by opening and plant at least 20,000 acres of cassava in Chemba district.

According to TCCIA' regional director, Idd Senge, the farm is in good production shape and plans are afoot to acquire more chunk of land for similar cultivation.

Apart from that, in Mkalama district, Singida region, the chamber (TCCIA- Dodoma) has also managed to cultivate more than 2000 acres of cassava.