By Patrick Nkono Luganda
Cassava is destined to transform the agricultural industrialization landscape in sub Saharan Africa. Uganda is one of the countries with high potential to spearhead the agriculture based industrial revolution.
The Uganda National Cassava program has for years been identified as a centre of excellence in the development of cassava varieties in the Africa region. Cassava is a wonder crop which for years has been known for its resistance to harsh climate conditions especially drought. Despite the repeated attacks by pests and diseases the crop his remained a leading famine crop.
Besides ensuring food security, the industrialization of cassava promises to turn it into a darling money spinner. High Quality Cassava Flour(HQCF) is on high demand worldwide for the manufacture of high quality products in pharmaceutical industry. The flour provides the base material for the manufacture of tablets and other products including syrups. Cassava is a high value raw material for the manufacture if high grade industrial alcohols including methylated spirits.
The production of high grade ethanol ideal for blending bio fuels is already being tried in Brazil with vehicle running on cassava based bio fuel. There are several products that can be made in the local bakeries and confectioneries. The production of cassava pellets for animal feeds is already been tested. However the most exciting product is in the breweries where production of popular white lager beers are on the market for Uganda Breweries as well as Nile Breweries.
The production of spirits in the Vodka grade series is also being tried out.
The other exciting fact is with all these products gaining commercially sustainable levels the contribution to the national GDP is a reality as well as the import / export trade balance is assured. All these bring to the forefront the welfare of the small scale farmers who are the main producers of this raw material. The high quality, high yielding cassava varieties are already developed with the cassava program at Namulonge NARO as well as the brewery industries who are taking a reasonable amount of cassava. The industrialization of this important crop across Africa is a reality.
Nigeria has an advanced cassava industry with production of various products heading for commercial quantities.
The beauty of the intervention is whereas we realize industrialization we will be solving several running challenges. Food and nutrition security as well as improving the rural economy across huge swathes of territory in Africa will be achieved.
Employment opportunities are also made available in the primary and processing rural located factories. Education of young secondary school leavers is being considered by the technical training facilities widely available to provide skills for cassava production and processing. The benefits of this massive undertaking can be achieved. Uganda is an ideal candidate to begin the first step in the journey to spread out to Africa.
Eastern and Northern Uganda are the highest concentration of cassava production. The challenge of energy for irrigation and drying of cassava will be handled using solar pumps to provide cheap clean energy for the primary processing. This is a highly farmer and public participatory undertaking that will provide the foundation for Agricultural Industrialization in Africa, out if Uganda.
The author is the Vice President Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly Africa(EBAFOSA) and President Ebafosa Uganda.