Global research suggests that there currently exists a huge deficit in the production of maize vis-à-vis the demand. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), by the year 2020, the global cereal demand will be at an approximate 2.1 billion MT and will, for the first time, show a major shift in favor of maize with demand estimated at 852 million MT compared to 760 million MT for wheat and 503 million MT for rice. Thus, global demand for maize in 2020 will increase by 45%, a substantial growth of 72% for maize in developing countries. This means that globally, an additional 266 million MT of maize will need to be produced, 80% of which is required for the developing nations. 

As the world grapples with these staggering statistics, farmers in Western Kenya may have found the solution to meet this deficit; Cassava production may just be a perfect but underexplored substitute for the maize meal! With support from Farm Concern International (FCI), farmers in Western Kenya are now turning to cassava production. Since 2014, majority of smallholder farmers have turned to cassava production using the improved cassava varieties as advised by FCI. Cassava production has become a major economic activity in Western Kenya due to its food security and cash rewarding benefits reaped by smallholder farmers and traders engaged in the value chain.

Mr. Boniface Omollo, a 65 year old father of six, is one of the beneficiaries of the cassava renaissance in Samia Sub County, Busia. Mr. Omollo started growing cassava in the year 2005 but over the years, he was not making a good return on his investment. His fortunes turned when FCI partnering with other stakeholders (Rural Energy and Food Security Organization (REFSO), and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization) along the cassava value chain, entered the scene.

“FCI taught us how to unite and form Commercial Villages (CVs) in 2014. They also introduced to us two new improved varieties; the MH95/0183 and MM98/3567 and taught us best planting practices and disease control techniques,” he says. 

Through the various trainings and linkages, FCI has helped cassava farmers to effectively deal with disease and post-harvest challenges that initially led to poor cassava harvest. With farmers successfully overcoming most of the pre and post-harvest diseases like Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), and learning how to use solar driers to enhance preservation, post-harvest losses are steadily becoming a thing of the past. 

Using the proceeds from cassava farming, Mr. Omollo has educated his six children and built a modern house, which is partially complete. He has also increased the acreage under cassava cultivation from one to seven. Mr. Omollo earned over Kshs. 100, 000 (USD 1090.62) between September and December 2014, and expects to earn an additional Kshs. 72, 000 (USD 785.25) from 120 bags of cassava cuttings. Additionally, Mr. Omollo is drilling a borehole and plans to increase cassava production through irrigation.

“In addition to irrigation, I will also use the water to process cassava and ensure I deliver quality chunks to my buyers,” he says. 

The cassava renaissance has had a major impact on the prices of maize in Samia. Because of the increased demand of cassava in the area, maize prices have significantly stabilized from Kshs. 60 to Kshs. 30 per kg while those of cassava have gone up to at least Kshs. 25-30 per kg from Kshs 15. Cassava is also on a higher demand compared to maize due to its lower price and higher nutritional benefits. Mr. Omollo urges his fellow farmers to

“try cassava farming” insisting that “a home without cassava in Samia is a home without food.”

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FCI VISION : Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond