A single farming season spent in cassava farming and processing can hand you the key to financial freedom. Yes! Cultivating and processing cassava is simply a money-making venture. In this post, I will show you why you should consider giving it a go and how to start your very own cassava farming and processing business.
Background: Why cassava?
Here are some of the reasons cassava has such a huge earning potential for you as an entrepreneur:
Cassava is an important food crop in Nigeria
Cassava is the third most consumed crop in Nigeria (FAOSTAT). It is our most important food crop by production quantity while yam is the most important food crop by value. Cassava is an important staple crop not only in Nigeria, but in Africa as it has a high potential of feeding rapidly increasing population and is generally more affordable if compared to other staple foods.
Export potentials are endless
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava. However, cassava produced in Nigeria goes mainly to feed and food (on average 45.6 percent and 45.7 percent respectively, while the rest of it goes to waste (FAOSTAT). This opens up a lot of doors for you as an entrepreneur especially in the processing and export sector. Countries like Thailand and Indonesia lead the charts on world cassava export.
Cassava is a multi-purpose food crop
It has a lot of uses. The crop is so valuable that no part of it is thrown away. The roots serve as food, the stem can be re-planted to grow more cassava while the leaves serve as livestock feed. The products in the value chain also serve as industrial raw material. You can focus on any of these or all of them. Whichever one you choose, cassava farming and processing is agriculture and you can never go wrong with agriculture.
Demand is high
The demand for cassava is high both in local and international markets, thereby making the business of cassava farming and processing very profitable. Due to its wide range of use the level of profitability of cassava farming is second to no other food crop. In fact, the demand of cassava is clearly higher than the supply. How much is a cup of garri in your area now? Think about it 🙂
How to start a cassava farming and processing business
To begin cassava farming and processing, you will need to put some things in place. The basic requirements include: acquiring a farmland, developing the farmland to suit cassava production, selecting the best variety of cassava, and selecting the best cassava stem cutting to plant.
Before you get started, of course, you will need to have a good business feasibility plan and raise capital for the business. You can click on the links to get detailed guides on how to do those. We will focus on planting and processing in this post.
ACQUIRING A FARMLAND
Cassava is a crop capable of surviving drought. However, it grows best on a flat or slightly slope land composed of humus soil which has capacity to retain water. The land must be in an area with an adequate amount of rainfall. Some of the qualities you should watch out for while acquiring land for cassava planting include:
- the land must contain dense vegetation,
- check for the texture of the soil, and
- the land must be flat or gently slope due to reduce the tendency of erosion to occur, washing away the soil’s nutrient.
A land which has thick vegetation is likely to favor the cultivation of cassava, drastically increasing the yield. The dense vegetation serves as covering for the soil, reducing the rate of water loss from the soil and improving the organic content of the soil when leaves fall and decay.
For best yield of cassava, you should make sure that the land acquired is mostly loamy soil. Sandy or clay soils do not support proper growth of cassava. Also, deep loamy soil is more easily tilled, contain less gravels, and more nutrient that the cassava plant will need.
DEVELOP THE FARMLAND TO SUIT CASSAVA PRODUCTION
A land with good soil favors the quick growth of cassava. Plants grown on such land usually have high resistance to pests and diseases. However, if you are not so fortunate to get a fertile land to cultivate cassava all hope is not lost.
There are some agricultural practices you can carry out on a less suitable land to improve its suitability for cassava production. They include:
APPLICATION OF MANURE
The fertility of the soil could be greatly increased by adding manure to the land. You could apply green manure in the form of dead plants or plant crop such as beans, groundnut, and the like. Work green materials into the soil while ploughing your land to improve the soil’s texture, nutrient and water retention capacity. Animal wastes are also good source of organic manure.
INTER-CROPPING CASSAVA WITH OTHER PLANTS
Legumes are excellent source of soil nutrients. Their falling leaves rot in the ground, improving the soil’s characteristics. Inter-cropping cassava alongside crops like melon, cowpea, maize, rice, and legumes improves the soil’s nutrient.
MULCHING THE FARMLAND
Mulching involves covering the surface of the farmland with lots of dead foliage (dead mulch). Examples of materials you can use as dead foliage are: rice husk, coffee hull, and foliage from leguminous crops.
If you have to cultivate cassava on a steep sloped land, then planting cassava varieties with quick and low-growing leafves will be helpful. The low leafs make a good covering for the ground and reduce the chances of erosion. Furthermore, you could also build ridges along the slope to prevent erosion and hold more water.
SELECTING THE BEST VARIETY OF CASSAVA
To ensure maximum yield, it is important to select the best variety of cassava. This will also go a long way to increase your plants’ immunity against disease, rapid growth, and increase their soil quality. Some qualities to check for while selecting the best variety include:
- Look for varieties that have a lot of dry matter and are good for food.
- Select varieties that bulk (swell) quickly in the ground, producing large quantities of food.
- Look for variety with good ground storability. A good variety of cassava matures in about 8-9 months. However the can be left (stored) in the ground for up to 18 months before harvest.
- Look for a variety with high resistance against pests and diseases.
SELECT HEALTHY CASSAVA STEM CUTTINGS
After locating the best variety of cassava, the next step is to select healthy cassava stem cuttings for planting. This is important to ensure the production of good and marketable cassava crops. The following are qualities to look out for when selecting healthy cassava stem cuttings:
- Healthy cassava have strong stems and branches with fresh leaves.
- Avoid selecting stem from plants that have been damaged by pests and diseases.
- Cut cassava stem of length 20-25cm and select those that have at least 5-8 nodes.
You can buy cassava stems from local farms and market for your first planting. However it is more beneficial to get the stem from your own farm for next planting.
PLANTING YOUR CASSAVA
After tilling the land with either manual or mechanical labor, you can start planting your cassava stems. Plant the stems with about two-third of the total length buried in the ground. Cassava farming requires water; it is best for you to start planting early (usually immediately the rains begin) to ensure rapid growth and maximum yield. With proper preparation and planting, 1 hectre of land can produce about 12-15 tons of cassava (depending on the variety).
After planting, constant weeding is required to rid the farm from weed that competes for nutrient with the cassava plant. Remains of leguminous plants should also be left or tilled into the ground to improve soil nutrients. Weeding is usually done two week after planting. To further enhance the growth and overall yield of your farm, you will need to apply fertilizers.
Cassava is a multipurpose food crop with a wide range of uses. Apart from using its root as food and leaves for soup or animal feed, it can be processed into various goods including: garri, cassava flour, cassava bread, caramel, etc. Cassava is also an important industrial raw material which can be processed to produce ethanol, paper (taking advantage of the high starch content), bio-fuels and pharmaceuticals.
The image below, courtesy of agriknowledge.org, captures the stages of cassava value chain from the producer to the buyers.
CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH CASSAVA FARMING BUSINESS
- The major challenge associated with cassava farming is finance. You will require capital to purchase land, acquire farming and processing machinery, cost of labor, etc. However you could source finance for this business from loans. This article details some available loans and grants for farmers in Nigeria. You should check it out.
- Another challenge that may surface is finding the good variety of cassava stem to plant. However following the guidelines for selecting healthy cassava stems described in this article will help you in that aspect. Improved varieties can also be gotten from agricultural research centers.
Cassava farming and processing is still very much lucrative and highly profitable. There is not a single problem of unsold goods; there is an ever present market. You could invest in cassava production now and smile to the bank 9 months from now.
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