June 2018 – Cotonou, Benin – Cassava is a major source of carbohydrate for over half a billion people and provides a livelihood for millions of farmers, processors and traders worldwide. Its importance should be recognized for its contribution to fighting hunger and poverty in Africa. However, cassava production remains low in Africa because the majority of primary producers are smallholder farmers who lack access to financial services, quality Inputs, mechanization, knowledge of good agronomic practices, and fair crop markets to optimize their productivity and increase their earnings.
Speaking on Monday, June 11, 2018 at the 4th International Cassava Conference held in Cotonou, Benin, Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, upheld that although cassava is a main source of calories for over one billion people across the globe, the cassava value chain has not reached its full potential as a tool for the transformation of African economies through industrialization. He maintained that the industrial requirements for starch, high-quality cassava flour, ethanol and glucose for most African countries rely largely on imports from other continents despite Africa having a comparative advantage in cassava production.
According to FAO, Africa produces over 54% of the world’s cassava, with Nigeria taking the global lead with a production of about 54.8 million MT in 2014. Nevertheless, Nigeria’s average yield of 7.7 MT per hectare, is very low compared to the 23.4 MT and 22.2 MT average yield per hectare produced respectively in Indonesia and Thailand. This low productivity, according to Abdulhameed, hampers the development of industrial processing of cassava due to the competition between food and industry and the peculiarities in its cultivation. Most critical of this is the crop’s short shelf-life. Once harvested, cassava requires structured cultivation, logistics and even modular post-harvest processing technology to support the shift towards industrial markets.
Abdulhameed in his keynote presentation emphasised that for the crop to accelerate the transformation of the African economy, cassava value chain requires financial services that can support larger agricultural investments to improve access to quality inputs and mechanization services for smallholder farmers. Also, long-term funding for agriculture-related infrastructure is critical to support greater inclusion of youth and women in the sector and promote innovations in the cassava value chain.
The NIRSAL boss stressed the need to facilitate the flow of affordable finance and investments to agriculture and agribusiness in African countries in order to mitigate low-quality inputs, poor production practices, outdated technologies, disease, climate change, commodity price volatility, poor response to market changes and most importantly poor access to finance which he identified as major factors inhibiting the performance of cassava from delivering its full potentials in Africa.
In Nigeria, NIRSAL is de-risking the agriculture value chain, attracting finance and investments into agriculture and reducing the cost of finance and investment in the sector. Abdulhameed added that through agribusiness finance facilitation tools like field aggregation & governance, geospatial mapping & monitoring, primary post-harvest processing, innovative insurance products, business models and financing frameworks, credit risk guarantees and technical assistance, the radical cassava transformation in Africa can be achieved.
Abdulhameed urged African governments, researchers, financial institutions, development partners, agriculture stakeholders including farmers, civil societies, the private sector, local and international investors to partner and collaborate in order to achieve huge returns on agribusiness and the attainment of food security in Africa. He added that the future of Africa depends on strategic partnerships, innovative and committed leadership that is prepared for continuous and systematic measures to drive the growth required for the transformation of agriculture in Africa.