On the second day of the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Kigali, Rwanda, the Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg Global Development Advisors and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) launched an Innovation Challenge worth about US$130 million. This challenge is to provide support for innovative solutions that can increase cassava shelf life in Nigeria, thereby enhancing food security and increasing income for millions.
“Our Yield Wise Initiative, launched earlier this year, is committed to halving post-harvest loss on the continent and enhancing the shelf life of cassava will be key to achieving this goal,” said Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office.
Cassava is critical for food security in Africa. It is the main source of nutrition for almost half of the continent’s population. While the root crop can stay for up to five years in the ground, it has a very short shelf life span of 24-72 hours if unprocessed and even less if it is damaged during harvesting or transport. Currently, Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for more than 20 percent of global production. It produces more than 50 million tons, annually, which is grown by nearly 30 million smallholder farmers.
Surprisingly, approximately 40 percent of this cassava is lost due to spoilage, a tremendous problem that limits farmer incomes and rural economic development. This stretches far beyond Nigeria’s borders as food spoilage and wastage affects the global economy and impacts greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, “the agricultural transformation agenda is beginning to open up new income streams for farmers. A good example is the case of cassava.” In his previous tenure as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, Dr. Adesina championed cassava commercialization in the country and grew the capacity to process cassava into flour, starch, cassava chips and several other products.
In view of the problems facing the cassava crop, which is grown not only in Africa but also Indonesia and Brazil, the Rockefeller Foundation Challenge in conjunction with Dalberg and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, will provide financial and technical support for innovative solutions that will solve these problems.
Nneka Eze, Agriculture Practice Co-Lead and Associate Partner at Dalberg, remarks that “if we solve the shelf life issues in cassava in Nigeria, we can solve them everywhere else. We hope that the Cassava Innovation Challenge and the significance of the award will help to harness this energy from across agricultural value chains and even bring non-agricultural innovators into the cassava value chain.”
Some of the barriers that cause the shelf life issues include limited access to existing cassava varieties, preservation of cassava between harvest and processing as well as the distance of processors from cassava farms.