Uganda: Farmers boost income with high quality cassava flour

| January 20, 2020

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In Oyam district, Uganda, cassava farmers are harvesting their crop and processing it into high quality cassava flour rather than simply selling raw cassava. Joyce Otim says high quality cassava flour sells at four times the price of fresh, raw cassava. Mrs. Otim is one of the farmers who are training other women to produce high quality cassava flour with small-scale cassava processing machines. High quality cassava flour is made from unfermented flour and involves a number of steps, including peeling, washing, grating, pressing, drying, milling, and sifting the cassava.

It’s noon and Joyce Otim is standing on her farm, looking at her healthy cassava plants and smiling. She’s happy that she will soon harvest and process the cassava into flour. She says, “I prefer selling processed cassava flour rather than fresh cassava because it raises better sums of money.”

Mrs. Otim started growing cassava in 2010 after retiring from her job as a high school teacher. She says: “I had to use my personal savings to buy land to plant cassava and add value by producing high quality cassava flour. Cassava without value addition fetches little money.”

Mrs. Otim lives in Apedi Adek village in Oyam district, about 380 kilometres north of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. She is the chairperson of a women’s group in her area called Okole Women Development Initiative.

Mrs. Otim is training the women how to produce and benefit from high quality cassava flour—which is unfermented flour made by processing raw cassava. To make it, the women follow a multi-step process that includes peeling, washing, grating, pressing, drying, milling, and sifting. They produce the flour both for consumption and to sell to consumers, breweries, and bakeries.

The group uses small-scale cassava processing machines that cost about 3,500,000 Ugandan shillings each ($947 US) after a partial subsidy from a cassava project. Mrs. Otim buys the machines from Kampala and sells them to farmer groups at a fair price.

She explains the economic benefits of processing cassava: “Currently, fresh raw cassava is sold locally at only 1,500 Ugandan shillings ($0.41 US) per kilogram, whereas high quality cassava flour fetches 6,000 Ugandan shillings ($1.62 US) per kilogram.”

Recently, Okole Women Development Initiative received a grant from the Ugandan government’s Skills Development Facility. The funds helped them train other women’s groups to produce high quality cassava flour. The women have conducted trainings for 13 women-led farmer groups in Balla, Alito, Okwerodot, and Akalo sub-counties in Kole district.

Mrs. Otim says: “Each of these groups was supported to acquire tools for processing high quality cassava flour. Our main objective is to empower women to excel in agriculture and to increase our household incomes.”

Nora Ebukalin is the chairperson of Popular Knowledge Women’s Initiative in Uganda. She says women are benefiting greatly from growing and processing fresh cassava.

Mrs. Ebukalin says that lack of access to adequate and sustainable markets has been the biggest challenge for cassava farmers, but that producing high quality cassava flour has opened new markets.

Okello Innocent is a cassava farmer in Akalu sub-county. He says that growing and processing cassava has increased his family’s income. He explains: “As soon as we were trained by Okole Women Development Initiative, we changed from producing cassava only and started processing high quality cassava flour in order to increase our income.”

Mrs. Otim plans to expand her farm in order to grow more cassava. She says, “Income from high quality cassava flour has helped me educate 10 children. I have also bought a car, land, and livestock.”