A group of women from Nambale and Butula regions in Busia County are making a fortune from cassava cakes, bread and crisps which they prepare for their own consumption as well as for sale.
The women have set up a processing plant to mill cassava flour and are making about Sh20,000 from this venture every week.
“We had for a long time known cassava as source of traditional diet for our families,” Julian Anyang’o of Nambale sub-County told Business Daily in an interview.
“This has changed after we learned how to add value to the product,” she says.
The group produces a special cassava flour called gari-emire to cook porridge, targeting learning institutions, local markets and Ugandan market. It sells at Sh200 per kilogramme.
Margaret Akinyi, a nutritionist, says changing eating habits have seen residents — even the younger generation— take to foods that are deemed healthier than processed varieties. She said the farmers are trained on how to prepare cassava for domestic consumption and to observe hygiene and quality standards for processed cassava available in leading supermarkets in western Kenya.
The Agricultural Extension Officer for Bukhayo East, Eric Magero, said demonstration centres have been established to teach farmers cassava production methods and conservation to attain food security and additional income.
“Farmers are encouraged to form groups to access credit facilities so that they can set up processing plants for value addition for drought-resistant crops such as cassava and ground nuts,” he said.
The government has put up processing machines for cassava and sweet potatoes in areas such as Teso South and Tanga Kona.
The National Council for Science and Technology in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Egerton University are also training farmers on preproduction and marketing of the crop.
But the gains made by the farmers are threatened by an outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) —a viral disease which is threatening this year’s harvest.
Scientists have warned that the continued spread of the disease could lead to reduced production of cassava by half, spelling doom to farmers.
The disease is also currently posing a risk to Nigerian farmers, the largest producer and consumer of the crop.