Counting on cassava

In many parts of Africa, cassava is one of the most important crops for small-scale farmers. Farmers have come to rely on the carbohydrate-rich tuber because it tolerates dry conditions well, can be stored in the ground for a long time and provides an essential source of energy-rich food for their families.

Because of these qualities, cassava has often been promoted as a famine crop. Even when grain crops fail, farmers know they can count on cassava.

Unfortunately, cassava has developed an “image problem.” It has been seen as only a famine crop or a poor person’s crop, which has prevented farmers from realizing its true potential to feed their families and provide income.

Our most recent script package includes multi-media material highlighting cassava production and information on the cassava value chain. This package includes a 40 episode mini-drama called The Root of Life. The drama follows cassava farmers, chronicling their farming successes and challenges. It also includes an issue pack focusing on the cassava value chain in Tanzania. It presents stories of two cassava farmers and provides background information on growing cassava (which is useful for cassava farmers in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa). Other resources include Cassava: A poor man’s crop no longer! – which focuses on the cassava value chain in eastern Kenya. We have also included a script on using agricultural equipment (a water pump), and a broadcaster “how to” guide on how reporters can assist farmers in speaking about issues important to them. Read the package here.

The cassava value chain

Farmers connect to agriculture value chains from the time they plant seeds all the way through harvest, processing and negotiating with buyers. Currently, too few small-scale farmers are taking advantage of the opportunities to add value to cassava by linking with processors and marketers, or through processing cassava on the farm. To profit from opportunities in the whole cassava value chain, small-scale farmers are being advised to work together in groups or co-operatives. By working in groups, farmers can maximize their potential to not only feed themselves with cassava, but to enter the cassava value chain and increase their income and bargaining power.

The Root of Life

We are excited to present The Root of Life as the first item of Resource Pack 96. In the drama, cassava farmers Kumdidimo and Mesozi invite listeners to journey with them through good and bad fortune, and tears and joy. Our experience has shown that listeners identify with people who sound like them and have shared similar life experiences. Riveting stories of individual triumph or struggle touch many when broadcast. Read the drama here.

Pounding cassava for home consumption (480x640)Hamida Mmakutwa pounds cassava in Nitekela village in Mtwara, Tanzania. The mother of four children relies on the staple tuber to feed her family throughout the year

This project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, as well as many generous individual Canadians.

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