Cameroonian farmers participating in the Programme National de Developpement des Racines et Tubercules (PNDRT) have more than doubled cassava yield, using improved cassava planting materials from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
â€œFrom 10 tonnes per hectare, farmers are now harvesting between 25 and 30 tonnes per hectare,â€ says Ngue Bissa Thomas, National Coordinator, PNDRT during the presentation of cassava chipping machines to beneficiaries in Cameroon .
Currently cassava production in Cameroon is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes but Thomas said he expected the figure to be higher after a country review of crop statistics.
Cultivated mainly for its starchy roots and leaves as vegetable, most farmersâ€™ varieties in Cameroon are susceptible to pests and diseases that cause substantial yield losses.
Using conventional breeding methods, IITA has produced improved varieties with multiple resistances to diseases, pests, low cyanide content, short crop cycle, and high yield, and in some cases resistance to drought. Such improved varieties constitute environmentally sound and economically efficient options for combating pests and diseases.
Thomas said, â€œOur next challenge is processing and the creation of markets for cassava farmers and to avoid glut. In collaboration with IITA, we have developed 100 processing machines that we are giving to farmers today.â€
With a processing capacity of between 120kg/hr and 200kg/hr as opposed to manual chipping of 5kg/hr, the machines are set to ease the drudgery associated with cassava processing in rural Cameroon .
The PNDRT project which is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) involves 250 villages across Cameroon .
Local farmers say they have benefited from the project.
â€œWe are happy with the implementation of this project because it has improved cassava production in our community,â€ says Mrs. Nke Susanne, President of the Rural Consultative Committee of Minkoa, a women-farmer group.
â€œMore importantly, the current introduction of chipping machines will ease processing,â€ she added.
She expressed optimism that the processing equipment would enhance value addition to cassava, create more marketing options, and make cassava more profitable.
Dr. Rachid Hanna, IITA-Cameroon Country Representative, said the chipping machines were novel technology developed by the Institute as a processing option to reduce the bulk of cassava, extend its shelf life, and reduce transportation cost while adding value and creating markets to the root crop.
Emphasizing the fact that cassava production in Cameroon like in most other areas in the Congo Basin in Central Africa relies highly on family labor, Hanna said the equipment were affordable, and could be easily transported in rural areas.