Monday, December 20, 2010

Sierra Leone Gets New Cassava Processing Center

By Success Kanayo Uchime

An African Farmer at work

Hope has come alive for the West African country Sierra Leone as another cassava processing center has been establish there. This will help to strengthen the value chain and boost the processing of the root crop.

This revelation was made at the inauguration of the centre which is part of a bigger project that is funded by the United States Agency for International Development but being implemented in seven African countries by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

The goal for establishing the processing center is to cushion the negative impact of the 2007/2008 food price crisis that precipitated into food riots in some countries of the region.

The micro-processing centre which is located in Sagila, Kailahun District—about eight hours drive from Freetown in eastern Sierra Leone, will among other things absorb and process cassava roots being produced by resource-poor farmers in that community.

Project Will Help Transform the Local Community

Speaking at the event, Senior Program Officer with the Catholic Relief Services which partnered with IITA, Ibrahim Tarawally said: “We are glad and we are saying thanks to the American people in the construction of the micro-processing center, as the project will help transform the local community.”

He noted that since 2008, IITA and partners working on the ‘Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa’ (UPoCA) project with support from the USAID have stepped up efforts in rebuilding Sierra Leone—a country once ravaged by war— by improving crops’ yield, and creating wealth in local communities through cassava value addition activities.

Cassava Production in Sierra Leone

“Consequently, cassava production in Sierra Leone has increased prompting the need for value addition and diversification of cassava utilization. We are happy for your pledge to keep this center running, “ Tarawally said

Also speaking at the event, the Paramount Chief of Sagila, Chief MK Mustapha stated: “Currently, we have cassava on our farms that are rotting in the ground but with this processing center, the situation will change.”

He said that apart from processing the cassava in the community, the center will also create jobs for youths.

Chairman, Moamaleh Farmers Marketing Association, Mohammed Vande in his own contribution said that with the center and the products that we will be producing, they are sure that poverty will be reduced in the community. “We also promise to make this enterprise viable.”

Rice Production and Consumption

“Known for rice production and consumption, Sierra Leoneans are gradually turning to other cassava food products such as gari—roasted cassava granules and fufu—a powdered form of cassava that is prepared into porridge or paste and consumed with stew. Cassava flour is also becoming popular as bakers compose it with wheat flour for the baking of bread and cake,” he added.

It need to be observed that to ensure the sustainability of the project, Vande and his team of more than 30 youths are cultivating two acres each of improved cassava. The improved cassava stems for the planting are being supplied by IITA.

Vande and his group reiterated the potential of cassava as a poverty alleviation crop, citing its tolerance to the vagaries of climate change and urged the farmers to cultivate the root crop, and to make judicious use of the center.

IITA develops agricultural solutions with their partners to tackle hunger and poverty and its award winning research for development (R4D) is based on focused, authoritative thinking anchored on the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa. Further to that, it work with partners in Africa and beyond to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture. It is an international non-profit R4D.

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