OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more


To enhance cassava processing for smallholder farmers in Nigeria by becoming a 'linchpin' processor in the local cassava value chain.

3 3

Written by

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.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

RECY WORD is a registered company in Nigeria and has recently launched a pilot starting with two machines- a grater, and presser in Omuaran, Kwara state, south-western Nigeria, and the pilot shows significant acceptance by the local people directly benefited the livelihood of 70 smallholder cassava farmers. The next steps will be to lunch full scale machinery including Peeling, Pressing, Roasting and Washing machines in order to benefit more farmers within the community.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would need professionals in the agric sector to work with us and contribute on reshaping our solution.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a successful farmer and entrepreneur. I serve as deputy Chairman of the Kwara state Farmers Association; Director of Opard Nigeria; I believe this experience will help me to lead this project to be successful. Interestingly I have a very great team with several years of experience. Together we will work to ensure RECY meets the need of smallholder farmers.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nicholas Sylvester


What infrastructure would be in place to improve farmers' access to this resource? How are you charging for this service? Are you taking payment in kind, or are you only taking monetary payment?

As you mentioned, many of those affected by this service are rural smallholders - would the mill be mobile? Would it actually be a product, which is sold to the farmers? Long travel distances could be prohibitive for the target users, and could reduce the effect that this idea has.

On the other hand, this type of processing could revolutionise the cassava industry. Small producers suddenly discovering that their product now has a significantly greater shelf-life could mean a major change in these farmers' lives, and will absolutely result in a huge increase in food security across the region.

I look forward to seeing how this idea grows and progresses, and hope to be able to contribute as things progress.

Nicholas Sylvester

View all comments