Concept note: Challenges and opportunities for small holders

Regional forum on cassava in central Africa, 6-9 Dec 2016 Yaoundé, Cameroon

  • Central Africa

While cash crops, livestock and grains continue to play an important economic role in the Central African region, roots and tubers in general, and cassava in particular, appear to be the agricultural crops with the greatest potential in terms of improving productivity, creating added value and developing regional trade. Contributing directly to the general objectives of food and nutrition security and the reduction of poverty in the region, cassava still broadly constitutes the basis of the human diet and has significant potential with regard to animal feed and industrial processing1

Indeed, while its roots are a source of energy and its leaves are a significant source of protein, vitamins and minerals, cassava is also used as a raw material for a wide range of processed food products (garri, crisps, flour, beer, etc.). It is therefore a strategic product that directly meets the food and nutrition needs of the region's rapidly growing cities. Finally, in the context of climate change, cassava displays a significant ability to resist periods of drought and grows in soil with low fertility. There are a number of advantages that enable the different actors in the cassava sector to generate substantial incomes.

The development of this sector has been, and continues to be, the focus of a large number of support projects (IFAD, IITA, DONATA, CORAF, NRI, FAO, PIDMA/MINADER/World Bank, EU, C2D, AfDB, etc.) in the different countries of the region in relation to the production and propagation of quality cuttings and the adoption of new varieties, as well as to issues ranging from post-harvest losses to processing techniques, marketing and the organisation of the actors. Unfortunately, the experience and knowledge generated by these projects are not transferred adequately within the region, and neither successes nor failures are properly capitalised on. This is a situation that does not help with the scaling up of projects or increasing private investment.

As an ACP-EU institution working in the development of the agricultural value chains, in particular through better knowledge management, capacity strengthening and dialogue facilitation, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is committed to supporting the Central African region in promoting the development of the cassava value chains over the 2016-2020 period in order to reduce poverty and contribute to food security in the region. Given the close links developed a number of years ago with the Central Africa Regional Platform of Producers' Organisations (PROPAC) and the numerous discussions and exchanges with the other actors in the region (more specifically PRASAC, CEMAC, CEEAC, IFAD and IITA), the CTA is offering to play an intermediary role, combining synergies, making approaches more consistent and facilitating change to improve practices and policies in the region.

The organisation of a four day regional forum dedicated to the development of the cassava sector falls within the framework of the launch of CTA support to the Central African region and, in particular, the validation of a number of mapping studies and needs assessments, as well as responding to the direct concern of the actors in the region with regard to having a forum for dialogue, sharing of knowledge and experience, together with capacity building.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The main objective of this forum is to bring together the main representatives of the different links in the Central African cassava value chain and develop, using a participatory approach, a common agenda for the region that can meet their needs and those expressed by other actors, including researchers, policy makers and financiers.

More specifically, the Central African "Cassava Forum" will make it possible to:

  • validate a number of recent studies carried out by the CTA and other organisations on specific themes linked to the development of the cassava sectors, 
  • inform and train a series of actors in the region on certain key cross-cutting aspects such as knowledge management, ICTs, innovative value chain finance, the roles and challenges related to the interprofessional organisations, etc.
  • organise field visits to innovative pilot projects and business-to-business (B2B) sessions with a view to facilitating links between producers, traders, processors/agribusiness and financial institutions.

Given the importance of cassava to the region, the idea to hold a “Cassava forum” every two years as a regional forum or fair was launched, allowing actors to be able to meet more regularly. In the meantime, this forum will then be able to continue to exist as a ‘Community of Practice’ (CoP) led by one or two organisations on a voluntary basis.

Approach

The approach used is based on a series of guiding principles to direct activities throughout the event. These principles integrate an approach involving the collective generation and acquisition of knowledge. More specifically, this means:

  • Sharing information, knowledge and lessons drawn from past experience;
  • Contextualising successes and failures by recognising the strengths and weaknesses of each experience and of the relevant actors;
  • Acquiring new skills specific to the needs of the actors involved;
  • Identifying new partners;
  • Developing a common agenda.

Thematic content

The content of this event will address the following themes including:

  • Multi-actor cassava innovation platforms and the harmonisation of practices;
  • Interprofessional cassava organisations: roles and issues;
  • Value chain finance and risk management in the cassava value chain;
  • Role of ICTs in the cassava value chain;
  • Issues related to the development of cassava-based nutritional products;
  • Integration of young people and women into the cassava value chain;
  • Contract farming practices;
  • The marketing of cassava products and by-products, as well as obstacles to trade: harmonisation of policies, trade opportunities, etc.
  • Knowledge management;
  • Production techniques, disease control and management: best practices

The list presented above is only a rough outline of the themes directly covered by the CTA, could be added to subsequently in light of suggestions from partners.

Partnerships

Achieving the goals of this event is closely related to the mobilisation of multiple partnerships making it possible to cover all categories of actors involved in the development of the cassava value chains in Central Africa. The forum will be organised in collaboration with PROPAC and with the support of PRASAC, IITA, FAO, IFAD, IRAD, PIDMA, MINADER and MINMIDT. These organisations will be involved in the organisation of special activities (parallel sessions, training courses, field visits/’learning journey’, etc.) and will contribute directly to the success of the event.

Participants

The Cassava Forum will involve around 120 participants, representing the different actors involved in the cassava value chain: producers, processors, traders, NGOs, researchers and policy-makers. In addition to the Forum's partners (see above), national delegations from six countries (Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, CAR, DRC and Chad) composed of the main representatives of the cassava value chain will be invited, along with representatives of regional and international organisations and financiers. Finally, representatives of the cassava value chain of Ghana and Nigeria will also be invited in order to share their experiences with the Central African countries concerned.

Format, place and organisation

The Cassava Forum will be held in Yaoundé from 6-9 December 2016 at the Town Hall in the form of a series of various activities meeting the needs of the different categories of actors represented. The forum will take place at the same time as the Salon International de l'Agriculture et de l'Agroalimentaire de Yaoundé (SIALY), also to be held at the town hall, with which synergies will be developed.

More specifically, the forum will begin with the official opening session, a press conference followed by a visit to the display stands, and opening cocktails with the officials. The afternoon of the first day will be devoted to a number of free-choice field visits. The following days will be dedicated to thematic mini-conferences and training sessions as well as several Business to Business ('B2B') meetings between private operators facilitated by a specialist firm. A session for the exchange of knowledge acquired during the forum will be organised on the final day followed by a capitalisation and recommendations session in the form of a roadmap prior to the official closing of the event.

Each activity will be designed to lead to a concrete and operational result.

Several field visits will be on offer to illustrate certain specific aspects of the value chain: production, small-scale processing, industrial and semi-industrial processing, marketing/packaging/standards, financing, etc.

The thematic mini-conferences will consist of a series of two-hour sessions, each on a specific theme related to the development of the region's cassava value chains. The ‘business-to-business’ section will be aimed at promoting networking between private operators and, more specifically, between producers, traders and processors with the goal of achieving trade agreements or promises to enter into a contract. Major upstream preparation will be necessary to maximise the results of the session for exchanges between operators. The responsibility for preparing and facilitating the exchanges will be entrusted to a specialist firm. In addition, stands will be provided to the different countries represented so that they can have a shop window for their national cassava industries. The partner organisations of the Forum will also be able to reserve a stand to present their programmes, activities and range of services.

Communication

The organisation of the forum will be supported by an ambitious communication plan that will help to ensure the success of the event. Wide media coverage at regional, national and international level will be established in order to disseminate the results of the discussions and exchanges as widely as possible. Social media will also be heavily involved, with the presence of a team of young African ‘bloggers’ and reporters. Partnerships will be established with press organisations in Cameroon and the rest of the sub-region.

There will be a TV set led by a specialist journalist at the start of the Forum to increase the visibility of the event and promote the topic to the general public. Twitter and Facebook will be used to increase interactions with the public.

 


 

1 The average cassava production in Central Africa was assessed at over 27 million tonnes between 1994 and 2014 (average yield of 7.2 t/ha), with a growth of 27% over the last 20 years. According to the FAO, Central Africa recorded its highest level in 2013 with a production of over 40 million tonnes, representing almost one third of production in the whole of Africa. It should be noted that the DRC and Cameroon are the region's main producers.