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Consolidating Nigeria’s comparative advantage on cassava production through mechanisation

Nigeria is often referred to as a cassava nation since it is the country with the largest production of cassava in the world, producing about 50 million metric tons annually from a cultivated area of about 3.7 million hectares(ha).
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Nigeria accounts for cassava production of up to 20 per cent of the world, about 34 per cent of Africa’s and about 46 per cent of West Africa’s production. The national average yield of cassava is estimated at about 9.5MT per ha, as against potential yield of up to 40 metric tons per ha. Close to two-thirds (66 per cent) of total production is in the southern part of the country, while about 30 per cent is in the north-central, and 4 per cent in other parts of the north.
The crop is predominantly grown by smallholder farmers on small plots for family consumption and local sale. Large scale commercial plantations have been rare, until recently when the government of Nigeria started promoting cassava as an industrial crop. Despite the high volume of production, the yield is very poor. Nigeria has one of the worst yields in world records.
Because yields are low, you need to cultivate more land. When you look at cassava farming in Nigeria, you can see it is done by peasant farmers, people who have from 1 to, at most, 5 ha for their own consumption and immediate sale. Cassava consumption for food accounts for 65 per cent of production. The remaining 35 per cent all goes to the industry.
All the above statistics and scenarios have been transformed significantly following the introduction of the Cassava Mechanization and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP) in Nigeria in 2013 in South Western states by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).
The programme worked towards revitalizing the cassava industry through mechanized production and agro-processing along the cassava value chain.
The project improved cassava productivity through increasing the operational efficiency and improving market linkages for smallholder farmers.  With this approach, the project enhanced food security, incomes and livelihoods for farmers, processors, and marketers in the cassava sector and reinforced Nigeria’s dominance as the global leader in cassava production.
AATF launched the programme in four countries – Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania to promote good agronomic practices, encouraging cassava farmers to use improved stem varieties, fertilizers and herbicides, and ensure timely farm operations.
In Nigeria, the project  is implemented in Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Niger and Ekiti and has recorded some milestones as it increased the efficiency and timeliness of operations the key results being 200 per cent increase in yields, 100 per cent increase in incomes, improved quality of life and attraction of more women and youth into cassava farming as a business.
The Olupo of Oluponna, Chief Emmanuel Oyelso in Osun state described the project as showcasing the power of technology and not magic.
“I have been involved in farming over the years but have never witnessed anything like CAMAP. With little activities, we were able to increase our harvest by over 200 per cent. CAMAP brought machineries that did the planting, first time we ever saw anything like that and as if that is not enough, they also brought machines that harvested the cassava and linked us to manufacturing companies that need cassava for their operations, we sat and negotiated how much one ton of cassava should be, it has never been that good,” the chief said.
“I have been able to acquire a new car, expand my farm to 84 hectares and all this is as a result of the success I achieved through CAMAP. My cassava harvest went from nine tons to 30 tons per hectare, previously, I would need about 15 persons to plant one hectare of cassava for me manually in 8 hours but since CAMAP introduced us to planting machines, one hectare is planted in less than an hour.
I supply cassava to companies using it for various productions, something we have never experienced. The challenge of transportation and market were properly handled under the CAMAP programme because as you are harvesting there is a truck standing by to transport to companies who are ready to pay you cash. We have never had so much money in our hands,” he added.
Another Chief, Solomon Oyerinde of Odofin in Iwo area of Osun said the project was superb. “I have never accessed a cassava planter before but through CAMAP, we not only saw the planter and harvester but used it on our farms and the result is what is holding me back, I can’t leave cassava farming.”
According to Oyerinde, “we started as a group of 120 farmers with most of us having either one hectare or more. No one in the group has harvested more than 10 tons in the past so when the CAMAP officials were telling us we can get more than 10 tons we never took them seriously but when it was time for harvest, we couldn’t believe our eyes. I got 30 tons per hectare and that alone changed my mentality about the use of mechanization in agriculture.”
The programme was a great one, in short a time, it was able to show that farming is a profitable venture, I started farming cassava five years before CAMAP was introduced to us and all what I was unable to achieve in those five years, my one season with CAMAP made it possible.
“The great harvest was not the sweetest part of the programme, the ready and waiting buyers and transporters and the fact that we got our payment once not in piece meal to me is the greatest gain for us from the project,” the Odofin High Chief noted.
Kayode Akanbi, headed one of the Clusters created by CAMAP to coordinate cassava farmers in Olaoluwa local government area of Osun state and according to him, participating in the CAMAP programme was like going to school. “We were taught a whole new way of farming cassava. The project was able to disprove the age long myth of not adding fertilizer to cassava because we added and saw wonderful results.
“CAMAP showed us how to plant cassava, when and how to apply fertilizer, how to monitor and control weeds and how to harvest, all these processes were machine-based, planter, harvester and loader. In less than two cassava planting seasons we saturated the market and made so much money that assisted us to give our families comfort, we were no longer stranded when school resumed as money for school fees was already available,” he added.
Having learnt how to scale up production of cassava, it is important that the federal government through the cassava value chain unleash a nationwide programme that will carry forward the lessons from CAMAP that has made it possible for farmers to get as much as 30 tons per hectare.
Source: Nigerian Tribune

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