Rapid urbanization throughout sub-Saharan Africa is currently being accompanied by a growth in demand for convenience foods. Cassava roots provide an ideal raw material for many of these types of food products, since they are easy to process and have a bland ﬂavour. However, fresh cassava roots are bulky and costly to carry and, in addition, are likely to rot within a few days of harvesting.
Cassava roots can be processed into several diﬀerent products, which include garri, ﬂour, bread and starch. Processing provides smallholder cassava producers with additional market opportunities, beyond simply selling the fresh roots. Once they have invested in suitable equipment, processing enables smallholders to increase their incomes, since they can demand a higher price for the value-added processed products.
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava. Smallholder farmers’ contribute about 70% of the total labour required to produce, process, market and distribute it. But, they earn just 17% of the total associated income. Recently, Landmark University conducted a research on agricultural practices particularly cassava in Irepodun LGA of Kwara state, Nigeria. Their findings show that inappropriate and unaffordable cassava machineries are responsible for “low level of cassava processing and utilization in Nigeria (the largest cassava producer in the world).”
Cassava has a shelf-life of 24-48 hours once harvested. Hence, it should either be consumed immediately or processed into more stable product forms. Processing cassava traditionally is tasking, ineffective, time consuming, and relatively inefficient. Mechanization is necessary for cassava production with the current high level of annual harvests and a market projection increasing annually.
Recy Word (RW) aims to leverage on cassava potentials by introducing mechanized forms of processing, branding of end products and resell of cassava waste to animal rearers as against the common disposal method of waste burning. With RECY WORD Mill, cassava farmers would be able to make garri within 1-2 days as against 4-5 days (traditional processing). With this, smallholder farmers will be able to avoid cassava rotting, meet market demands, export their products outside the rural settlements and have these products branded according to their descriptions. As RECY WORD Mill will leverage on the use of Grating, Peeling, Pressing, Roasting And Washing machines to process while PP woven sack machine to print and brand the garri bags according to farmer’s (client’s) descriptions.
For small scale farmers – who dominate cassava production – improved shelf-life would not only mean more stable or reliable income, but wider access to markets given a longer distance the cassava can travel. Cutting the wastage in cassava alone could result in a significant increase in food security and improved nutrition throughout the region. Further, unlocking the potential of industrial cassava will lead to growth in parallel industries where locally processed cassava flour, starches, and ethanol could serve as low-cost inputs in bread, snacks, and even animal feed. Attempting to reduce the staggering amounts of food loss in cassava is ambitious.
Indeed research institutes have spent decades working on preservation and post-harvest technologies, but they mostly focused on increasing yield from the crop by reducing pests and combating diseases that turned the crop brown and inedible, and increasing nutrition. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Nigeria, has successfully introduced drought-tolerant cassava varieties and technology to increase yields. Yet the problem of high spoilage rates and limited shelf life still remains. This is exactly why we are excited to lunch RECY WORD.