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Cassava fund to improve production

Over 140,000 people in Kenya, 60 per cent of them women, are set to benefit from a five-year European Union (EU) funded programme, focused on strengthening the quantity, quality and marketability of cassava in the local and international market.

The €6.5 million (Sh720.2 million) programme targets seven counties with cassava production potential– Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Kitui and Kilifi.

Strengthening the Competitiveness of the Cassava Value Chain in Kenya programme, launched yesterday by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett gives hope to 28,000 smallholder farmers in the seven counties to acquire clean, quality planting materials and improve productivity and marketability of the crop.

The programme also seeks to increase average production for subsistence farmers from 2.5 metric tonnes per acre to seven metric tonnes per acre and for pre-commercial farmers from five metric tonnes to 10 metric tonnes per acre.

EU Head of Rural Development and Food Security, Klaus Gautsch said as a drought-resistant crop, the cassava project will “help to address the need for sustainable food and nutrition security, strengthen resilience to climate change, create job opportunities and increase incomes for smallholder farmers.”

The programme, Gautsch said, is designed to create 5,600 new jobs and increase access to credit for at least 50 per cent of the farmers and businesses active in the cassava value chain in the target counties.

“We see a real opportunity for cassava farmers not only because they would increase production for household cooking, but also help meet the growing demand for cassava products in the industrial, food, beverage, livestock feed and textile sectors,” said Gautsch.

He called for increased collaboration from target counties and the private sector to support county-level trade and business platforms and in the creation of a national level platform for cassava value chain actors.

Bett said root and tuber crops are an important source of human food, animal feed and also play a vital role in ensuring food security.

“Root and tuber crops offer choices and opportunities as they exhibit higher tolerance thresholds to a variety of stresses such as water and heat stress, water salinity and the emergence of new pests,” said the CS.

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