Of all the crops grown in Central Africa, cassava has the strongest potential to increase food security, generate greater benefits for farmers from value addition and foster regional trade. A Regional Forum on Cassava in Central Africa - Challenges and opportunities for smallholders will examine how to develop a regional value chain that can tap into these opportunities, creating jobs and income for a large number of people.
The forum will be held from 6 to 9 December in Yaoundé, Cameroon, alongside the annual Salon International de l’Agriculture et de l’Agroalimentaire de Yaoundé (SIALY).
With production of more than 40 million tonnes in Central Africa, cassava is a key crop for the region, providing a rich source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to millions of people, especially those in the region's rapidly growing cities.
Aside from its place as a staple in local diets, cassava is used in animal feed, and as a raw material for industrial processing. It also offers promising scope as an ingredient to substitute imported commodities, in food and beverage products such as beer, flour and crisps, reducing foreign exchange demand, increasing food sovereignty and generating local employment and revenues. Another important attribute is cassava's resilience to climate change, able to withstand periods of drought and to thrive in soil with low fertility.
"Cassava is a truly remarkable crop, and although production in Central Africa accounts for almost one-third of output in the whole of Africa, the region has only scratched the surface in terms of taking advantage of all the opportunities that cassava has to offer," said Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which is jointly hosting the forum together with the platform for farmers' organisations in Central Africa the Plateforme Sous-Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d'Afrique Centrale (PROPAC) and support from other partners. "This forum will provide a chance for the many different actors to come together and share their experiences, with the ultimate goal of shaping a strong regional value chain for cassava."
The Cassava Forum will bring together around 120 participants drawn from different strands of the Central African cassava value chain, as well as NGOs, researchers, financiers and policy-makers involved in developing the sector.
As part of the hands-on approach planned for the event, training sessions will be staged for cross-cutting areas such as social media, knowledge management, innovative value chain finance and forming effective inter-professional organisations.
Participants will also undertake field visits, organised to demonstrate innovations in the production, small-scale processing, industrial and semi-industrial processing, marketing, packaging, standards and financing. A series of business-to-business (B2B) meetings will be organised to promote networking and forge closer links between producers, traders, processors, agribusinesses and financial institutions.
The Regional Forum on Cassava in Central Africa is being organised by CTA and PROPAC, with support from the Regional Centre of Applied Research for the Development of Farming Systems in Central Africa (PRASAC), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Agricultural Research Institute for the Development IRAD, the Agricultural Investment and Market Development Project (PIDMA), the Cameroon Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) and the Cameroon Ministry of Mines and Technological Development (MINMIDT).
Stéphane Gambier, Senior Programme Coordinator, Communications (CTA)