Farmers in Kerio Valley commercialize cassava farming

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Kapsowar: Wednesday April 25, 2018

Cassava tubers, for a long time labeled “a poor man’s food” has now turned a cardinal income earner for farmers in Kerio Valley, reinforcing one of the government’s big four agenda of promoting food security.

The residents now roast and fry the tubers for value addition and sell them at the markets in the valley and its environs, fetching four times more.

A beehive of activities have characterized Albert Changwony’s farm during harvesting period.

“A 50 kg bag of cassava goes for a thousand shillings,” he revealed.

He added: “We have to pack these cassava tubers carefully to avoid getting poisonous,” he said firmly cautioning his farm hands on careful handling of the precious tubers.

Changwony has been growing cassava for the last four years, but it is only until recently that he realized the crop fetched more money compared to other crops such as maize and beans the residents are accustomed to.

“I never knew that cassava could replace other crops on my farm since I only grew the crops for home consumption until when I needed money but nothing to sell except for the cassava in my farm,” says Changwony.

Changwony explains that the cassava fetches more when it is roasted than when it is sold raw at the market.

“You are not lucky you came when we are just selling them raw but if you came a day prior to market days you would have seen how we roast and sell to our consumers,” he says.

A group of farmers who are ready to sell their cassava come together a day before the market day for a roasting session and spend over four hours in the evening roasting and packaging the cassava.

The roasted cassava is packed in protected bags to be sold in markets the next day during market the day.

“They are delicious and once they reach the market in the morning, a consignment will not last for more than two hours before they are sold out,” Changwony says.

Most customers are the hotel owners for their client’s breakfast, adding that residents also buy the crop as breakfast and lunch bites.

Once the cassava is roasted, a tuber that would have gone for Sh 50 will be sold at Sh 200. The tubers are sold in Koloa, Tot, Sokobora, Chesoi, Kapsowar, Bugar, Iten and even Kapcherop.

Other Big markets where the tuber is sold include Eldoret, Kapenguria, and Lodwar where they sell raw cassava in bulk at shs 1,000 per 50 kg bag commonly known as Jubilee at the area after enactment of AVA act.

Alternatively, Changwony explains; if the market is flooded, cassava tubers are dried and sold later when the prices go up, and can be mixed with millet, maize, sorghum and wheat milled and used to make nutritious porridge or Ugali.

He says the greatest advantage of the cassava crops is that there is no wastage. “If you go to the market, you will find small white cubes that resemble ice cubes. Those are dried cassava,” he adds.

Changwony calls the county government of Elgeyo Marakwet to facilitate a cassava miller to mill their produce and further add more value to generate more profits.

“Milled cassava can be used to make chapattis, mandazis, doughnuts and cakes,” he says adding if they had their own mill they would form a co-operative society and establish a cassava bakery. Besides the tubers, cassava leaves can also be used to feed livestock.

Cassava is also drought tolerant and can survive hardship at the harsh climatic conditions characterizing the valley.

“Although it takes long time to mature, cassava is one of the crops that will remain standing in all seasons and the good thing is you can harvest just the few and save some for later,” says Changwony, adding that as compared to other crops, cassava remains his favorite.

The biggest challenge in cassava husbandry is the cassava mosaic disease and root rot but can be solved by planting certified seed varieties that are resistant.

Benjamin Sum, an agricultural extension officer in charge of Endoo in Kerio Valley says farmers have adopted cassava farming with gusto advising them to adopt the crop farming since it was easy to manage, drought tolerant, has a longer life and more returns as compared to maize and beans.

“The advantage is you can harvest a few and leave the rest of the tubers in the ground without them getting spoilt, for example if you want just a few for consumption, you can harvest two or three tubers and save the rest for later,” he says.

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