Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization- KALRO has embarked on training of trainers (ToTs) for extension staff and service providers from counties implementing Kenya Climate Smart Agricultural Productivity (KCSAP).
Speaking during cassava value chain ToTs forum at KALRO in Mtwapa, Kilifi County Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger said cassava is the third most important food and cash crop world’s most widely grown starch storage root crop and accounts for a third of the total production of staple food crops in sub Saharan Africa and is the most resilient to climate change among all major African crops.
Kireger noted that cassava is an important source of dietary energy for over 500 million people in developing countries.
“In Kenya, production levels are estimated at 83,486 hectares with annual production of 1.5 tons. At a price of 15 shillings per kg, this translates to 22.2 billion shillings annually,” said Kireger.
Over 500,000 small holder farmers have been targeted in the three counties of Kisumu, Busia and Lamu selected cassava value chain as a priority through which to reduce poverty through increased incomes, improve food and nutritional security especially for women, children, youth and vulnerable groups.
He observed cassava value chain training at KALRO Mtwapa in Kilifi County is among others where KALRO is training trainers on knowledge and skills to facilitate increased productivity of various crops and livestock.
Funded by the World Bank, the KSCAP training is expected to have ripple benefits on cassava productivity in the country with beneficiaries estimated at about 521,500 households of smallholder farmers, agro-pastoralists, and pastoralists.
The director cited the extension staffs are training on value addition of the crop to improve its marketing and shelve life for farmers to sell the crop when there is no flooding in the market.
He observed Coast farmers have been incurring losses due to lack of markets for their crops where the training will open up new avenues for the crops diversification and end user products.
Dr. Kireger noted that KALRO training would ensure food security and encourage uptake of traditional foods which has proven healthy and immune boosters especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He encouraged the production and consumption of traditional foods like cassava, sweet potatoes, green grams, potatoes among others and their by-products which the farmers are being taught.
During the training, farmers learn how to select best seeds for their farms to make maximum yields efficiently, on farm management, harvesting, post harvesting and storage techniques to avoid losses.
Dr. Kireger underscored the importance of the two week long training saying the farmers will be empowered with new knowledge on cassava crop value addition and diversification in end user products which can be preserved for longer usage ensuring food security for the farmers and the country.
Cassava is often taken raw, boiled, fried, grinded to flour, dried and sliced to small chips and taken as a snack by most people especially in the Coastal region commonly known as Kachiri.
Kireger however said the cassava crop is associated with poisonous hydrochloride cyanide when harvested at the wrong time.
He encouraged farmers to seek harvesting knowledge of the crop and get the recommended varieties.
Kireger added that there are proposed 2018 flour blending policy regulations in place to create market linkages between farmers and processors where cassava has been proposed to be used with maize or wheat to produce highly nutritious composite flour.
Raw material scarcity
He reported that processors have been complaining about a lack of adequate supply of the crop while on the other hand farmers complain of a lack of market thus the need to establish the linkage.
He encouraged farmers to form cooperatives and groups to enhance bargaining power as well build up sufficient supply for easy picking of the product by processors from their farms.
“It will be easier for training of farmers in groups by the extension officers including efficient crop pest control and diseases in case of an outbreak.” advised the director.
2012-2018 statistics show that cassava production in Kenya has been on decline by 44% due to lack of high yielding varieties, damages due to cassava diseases, poor agronomic practices, post-harvest losses, poor storage methods, lack of value addition and product development and lack of a reliable market.
[Farmers displaying harvested cassava tuber at KARLO training center in Mtwapa, Kilifi County. Photo/Ahmed Omar].
Dr. Kereger said development and dissemination of cassava climate smart technologies; innovation and management practices would efficiently reverse the declining productivity.
Busia, Kilifi, Migori Homabay and Kwale lead in Cassava production in the country with Siaya, Machakos, Kisumu, Lamu, Bungoma, Makueni and Kitui making the list of 12 counties best known to produce cassava in that order respectively.
Poor farming methods
Meanwhile, the Director Industrial Crops Research Institute (ICRI) Dr. Teresia Munga said farmers have been facing challenges of low yields by growing local cassava varieties which produce low yields.
The Director Said they are training the farmers now on how to multiply their crop yields by planting the cassava crop best varieties and using tissue culture farming methods.
KARLO is also training the cassava farmers on management of cassava crop by planting the right crop population, weeding and applying farm inputs like fertilizer.
KARLO has researched six varieties of cassava crop breeds in 2008 which has the advantage of maturing early, has high yields and is also resistant to diseases.
Kibanda meno, Karembo and Tajirika are some of the recommended cassava varieties farmers are urged to embrace.