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Cash from Cassava

In Nigeria, smallholder cassava farmers have a huge new market, thanks to a woman entrepreneur, Dutch multinationals, and 2SCALE.

Until recently, cassava was the stereotypical smallholder crop, grown on small plots for family consumption. 2SCALE’s partnerships with cassava processor Psaltry International (an award-winning, woman-headed firm) and Heineken subsidiary Nigerian Breweries have created a virtually unlimited commercial market for cassava, as raw material for beer.

Psaltry, located in Iseyin in southwest Nigeria, buys fresh cassava tubers from 1,500 farmers (375 women) and processes it into starch and syrup for sale to the brewery. At least 35 local businesses are involved in various ways – transportation, finance, production of cuttings etc. 2SCALE’s role covers mobilization, training, technology dissemination and business linkages. Over the past three years, we have mobilized and trained over 600 farmers, and introduced new high-yielding varieties, specialized fertilizers, improved production methods, and low-cost harvesting and planting equipment to reduce time and labor costs. Psaltry’s farmers have been formally organized into a cooperative, and membership has increased from 640 to 1300. Most members have been linked to a bank or microfinance provider for credit.

In 2016 Psaltry purchased 28,375 tons from 2SCALE clusters at a pre-agreed price that was 20% above the market price. This enabled the firm to triple its starch production, and to further expand sourcing plans for 2017.

In response, farmers are not only adopting the new technologies to increase yields, but also expanding their cassava fields. Nasiru Olaniyi, chairman of the cooperative, says: “A few years ago, farmers were cultivating 2, maybe 3 acres. Then 2SCALE and Psaltry came with their service providers, tractors, and stem cuttings. Now farmers are cultivating 5 to 10 hectares.”

But the real strength of this partnership, according to Olaniyi, is in building farmer capacity. “It is the way farmers are being grouped and linked with other partners. This makes it easier to come together to solve common problems that are affecting everyone’s business.”

New partners are coming on board as well. Nestlé is negotiating supply contracts for cassava starch with Psaltry for use in noodles, Milo and seasoning cubes. The Nigerian government, through its Anchor Borrower Scheme, will distribute loans of 130 million Naira (€ 380,000) to more than 250 farmers linked to Psaltry. Disbursements are expected in the second quarter of 2017. UK’s Department for International Development is co-funding 2000 hectares of nucleus farms that Psaltry will manage as production and farmer-training centers.

Dauda Kehinde is one of the women farmers supplying Psaltry. She explains how this partnership has transformed the local economy. “We used to till the land manually, now we use a tractor. Two years ago, only men had the money and the knowledge. But now we women have been trained, we received pesticides, herbicides and bank loans, and we can use machines as well. I used to harvest 2 pick-up vans of cassava. Now I harvest 5 vans from the same land.”

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