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Cassava Potential Underutilised   
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Ghana is the 6th largest producer of cassava in the world in terms of value, and the commodity constitutes 22 percent of the country’s agricultural GDP.

Cassava is one of Ghana’s main staple crops, which is consumed in all parts of the ten administrative regions having an annual production above 10 million metric tonnes over the last decade.

However, available data shows that up to 34 percent of cassava produced in Ghana is lost along the value chain.

Processing cassava into gari is one of the most promising value addition activities, given the high demand and income elasticity which result in particularly favourable prices as opposed to fresh tubers.

However, a lot of constraints and bottlenecks hindering processing have been identified.

Cassava is an important commodity for Ghana’s food security and it is therefore not surprising to note that Ghana’s Agricultural Policy, the Food and Agricultural Development Policy (FADEPII), gives particular attention to development of the cassava sector and intensification of industrial processing to increase value addition.

Cassava is the first crop in terms of calorie intake and per capita consumption in Ghana. According to the latest food balance sheet by FAOSTAT 2011, per capita daily intake is 673 grammes -- which accounts for 32 percent of total per capita daily intake.

In terms of calories, cassava consumption per day per person provides 708 kcal, which is about 24 percent of total daily calories intake.

Sub-Saharan African countries are the main producers of cassava, accounting for 62 percent of total world production; however, due to lack of post-harvest loss reduction systems and processing technologies, the sector is not as developed as expected.

One of the key recommendations of the 27th FAO regional conference in Africa -- held in Brazzaville, Congo in 2012 -- is the promotion of results-oriented interventions to stimulate value chain development of key food commodities in African countries, including cassava value chains in Ghana.

Based on this recommendation and the government of Ghana’s quest to commercialise cassava as prioritised in the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment plan (METASIP, 2011-2015), the Rural Poverty Reduction Initiative was formulated and developed.

The initiative seeks to develop, test and repeatedly implement and refine a multi-disciplinary approach to rural poverty reduction.

Implementation of the Rural Poverty Reduction Initiative started in April 2013, and so far it is being piloted in 18 communities of the West Gonja district of the Northern Region with particular focus on the cassava value chain.

To this end, the FAO held a stakeholders workshop in Accra on Wednesday that looked at key findings and recommendations from three studies commissioned by the FAO under the Rural Poverty Reduction Initiative, with particular focus on Northern Ghana.

The first study was delivered by Dr. William Ahadzie of the African Development Programme (ADP) and examined a select group of agriculture-related policies, as well as the capacity-needs of a variety of groups in the agricultural sector at the national and sub-national levels.

A total of 34 policies were analysed within a FAO-developed framework on a set of predetermined criteria for the core areas and capacity needs assessment.

The second was delivered by Dr. Robert Osei of ISSER, featuring a diagnostic study of poverty profiling in West Gonja; and the third was delivered by Dr. James Taylor, University of Califonia, which looked at West Gonja district and cassava production: impact simulation of alternative social and agriculture interventions.

Dr. Ahadzie’s study found out that farmer-based organisations were weak, and a third is not registered with the department of Cooperatives as required by law. He recommended the revival of FBOs through mentoring exchange visits and capacity building, since most had poor governance structures.

Dr. Osei’s study showed that 80 percent of the population is deemed poor, and this fits into the reality that food crop farmers are the poorest in the country, based on national statistics.

Dr. Berhane Bedane, Animal Production and Health Officer of the FAO regional office in Accra, said the FAO’s mission is to support member-states achieve food security -- and one way of doing this is to identify policy gaps and recommend measures to address those gaps through strengthening the capacities of central and local government agencies to map, formulate and implement integrated and equitable poverty reduction policies and programmes.

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