By Stanslus Okurut and Settumba Mukasa, College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences, Makerere University
Under their group the Popular Knowledge Women’s Initiative (P’KWI), women farmers in Soroti District, Eastern Uganda, are reaping big from processing fresh cassava roots into High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF). Lack of access to adequate and sustainable markets has been a perennial challenge of cassava farmers in Eastern Uganda -the country’s largest cassava producing region, but HQCF offers a glimmer of hope.
P’KWI was formed by women from families traumatized and impoverished by the insurgency in the Teso Region of Eastern Uganda in 1993. The group’s activities focus on farming, community empowerment and the sunflower value chain. In 2009, P’KWI transformed into the P’KWI Farmer to Farmer Cooperative Society and by 2012, its membership base included 2,500 households. Through the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) Project, led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, the group successfully lobbied for equipment and infrastructure that are helping them process their roots into HQCF.
P’KWI’s philosophy of taking farming as a business has paid off as its members are better off than other farmers around them. For example, for each kilogram of HQCF sold, farmers receive 800 Uganda shillings (approximately 20 US dollar cents). This is four times the price they receive from the dried cassava chips. The group chairperson, Mrs. Norah Ebukalin, says the challenge now is to get certification from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards in order to reap even bigger from the processed HQCF.
Inspite of the higher proceeds from the cassava flour, the farmers say it is just enough to meet the processing costs. Profits are still low. However, through the Cassava Community Action Research Program (Cassava CARP) funded by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), this challenge may soon be history. As part of the CARP activities, a sensitivity analysis is being carried out to determine the break-even price for HQCF processing. This research will establish the price and volume of production that make the enterprise profitable and also identify inefficiencies in the current production process so as to reduce the cost of HQCF production.
The Cassava CARP was initiated in October 2014 with support from RUFORUM (Grant No. RU 2014 CARP 04) to support improved livelihoods in the major cassava growing districts in Northern and Eastern Uganda. The project is using a bottom-up approach in the community action research interventions –starting with farming communities in identification of community challenges.