Sowing seeds of transformation among cassava producers: Experiences with farm households in Kilifi and Taita-Taveta counties at the Kenyan coast

Back in 2017, as a requirement of a degree of Masters of Science in Food Safety and Quality, I was privileged to join my class in a one week community outreach and assessment program in Kwale County. The one week assessment interrogated community food handling and safety knowledge to tackle the increasing cases of malnutrition and periodical cholera cases experienced in the county during that period. The one week interaction with the Mijikenda (nine sub tribes) gave me an endowed experience and a burning desire to make a trip again at the Kenyan coast and learn more about the communal orientation of the community. The dream got actualized when, fortunately, I merited as one of the students in the cassava project. This time, the trip was not to Kwale but to two other counties, Kilifi and Taita-Taveta, which boarder Kwale.


Farmers Training session at Mama Janes’ Kitchen- Mbale (economic empowerment of women)

In my earlier years, I lived having two perceptions about the Kenyan coast, typically dabbed a lifestyle of the Mombasa people; “Mombasa raha”, loosely translated as “Mombasa the home of luxurious living,” and that “Mombasa hakuna haraka” meaning everything at the Kenyan coast is done with no haste.  So when I got the opportunity to work with these two counties, I knew I had the perfect opportunity to learn about the Kenyan coast. At the same time, it dawned on me that I was in for a hard task. At this time, in 2018 April, I was walking into a society that had been declared by the Kenyan Government, just few months ago, as food insecure deserving food relief from the government since it had insufficient produce. I did a quick background check in the community and found out that despite being hunger prone, the community had grown Cassava crop since time immemorial. At this point I convinced myself that all was not lost. Hence I consoled myself that, the work could not be as hard but a little motivation to the farmers would help us to contribute to the actualization of two SDGs of Food and Nutritional security and eradication of poverty within this community.


Samwel Onyango with a 70 year old retired postal corporation driver in his 20 acres of cassava.

My interaction with the coastal farm households for the last one year has taught me and motivated me to be committed even further to the African Agenda 2063. The local farmers are committed to getting and adopting the new technologies presented to them by either the NGO’s, Banks and research institutions such as universities, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organization (KALRO) and others.  Notably, the commitment of Kilifi county Extension officers Mr. Nyinge and Mr. Mwadzua is quite commendable. The first trip during the focus group, remarkably, Mr. Nyinge knew about 100 farmers by name, farmer group, homestead and some by their children names. The few questions he kept asking the farmers were, “Hello mama Y, how are the fruit trees we gave you fairing?” This became a chorus as we navigated the county. In this officer, I learnt that community interaction calls for meeting the farmers at their farms, moving a notch high to associate with them at personal level and sharing with them their experiences.   The up close interaction with the farmers showed an open interaction between the Extension officer and the farmers.  This way, the farmers learned while being motivated and with a clear focus of making money from agriculture while feeding their families.

Water Harvesting

Water harvesting in the lower regions, Mwatate and Voi

Cassava is grown in under 2 acres of land in Kilifi and Taita-taveta Counties by over 70% of farmers, however, there are a few farmers who have grown the crop in over 20 acres of land and are mincing millions from cassava crop cultivation.At the Kenyan coast, the people are endowed with a lot of crops, from traditional vegetables, coconut, bananas and tomatoes (Taveta sub county), beans just but to mention a few. The geographical location of the place and the presence of the Taita hills and the Indian Ocean creates a larger disparity in terms of micro climate. Some of the places I visited had an Altitude of Negative 10m while others had as high as 2200m above sea level. In the lower regions of Baharini, Mwatate, Voi, Bhughuta farmers do small scale goat rearing as a commercial activity and there are sisal farming alongside the growth of cassava crop.


Cassava value added cakes – increasing economic value of cassava- Baked at the university of Nairobi kitchen during a farmers training.

In the highlands there is commercialization of dairy animals though on small scale.  In my interaction with the farmers who mostly cultivated Cassava in under 2 acres of land, I was privileged to meet a retired old man, though young in his ambitions and desires. The gentleman who worked as a Postal corporation of Kenya driver before retirement narrated story worth sharing. “While I retired in early 2000’ I knew I had to venture into agriculture, I tried doing pawpaw but the returns were minimal. At a later stage, I decided to upscale my cassava crops, today I do close to 20 acres of cassava per each planting season. I have been able to educate my children and build a new house from returns from Cassava, something that I was unable to do during my employment age. I can assure you my son, Cassava crop is like gold to me.” The research assistant (guide) who walked me to the old man’s homestead and farm retaliated that the old man minced a lot of money from cassava farming and that he was on record of doing more than 50 acres and not 20 acres as he had reported.


Locally fabricated milling machine at mama Caroline Dama’s home in Kilifi county.

While growing up and during my schooling years, I was always advised and trained to take personal initiatives. I did not, however, appreciate or conceptualize it in a farmer’s life. ‘Local farmers do the same’ my mind was jolted when I met Mama Jane.  Mama Jane is a woman in Mbale, Taita sub-county. Mama Jane is an embodiment of self-drive towards the desires to actualization of desired motivation. She is quite motivated to do that which is within her capacity to help change her state. My first visit to Mama Jane’s kitchen, she did small scale value addition of cassava into boiled roots as well as crisps. My one year interaction with her has totally changed her perception about cassava and re-energized her to drive and expand her kitchen into a community training center. After training her in college on value addition, she was quite clear on what she wanted to do. Barely a month after training, she was already representing her county in a commonwealth event in Nairobi.  Lately she has been identified by the county as the face of cassava value addition. She recently (2020 February) organized a farmers training session in partnership with the University of Nairobi and the county Government of Taita-Taveta and I personally attended and affirmed that her drive to facelift the thinking of her fellow women was still a blaze.


Traditional milling stones

There is just so much I learnt from Taita-Taveta and Kilifi counties. One may not put a full stop with stating the level of peaceful co-existence amongst the people and the level of tolerance and humility of interaction.  The people cherish communal values and respect for the law including the clans’ headmen.

I take this opportunity to thank the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the MasterCard Foundation and the University of Nairobi for giving me the opportunity to be part of the cassava project team. The cassava project is committed to contributing towards the realization of three SDGs that is Food and Nutritional security, Eradication of poverty and quality education for all. I still look forward to continue working with the people of Kilifi and Taita- Taveta counties as we focus to ensure enough food for all while raising the living standards of farm households.

My motivation to start a business was to respond to society’s needs

Gad Simone Mahoussi Assocle was born in Cotonou, Republic of Benin and she hold a bachelor’s degree in Food Technology from National University of Agriculture of Porto-Novo (Benin). She is currently enrolled for a Masters of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University in Uganda, funded by RUFORUM as part of the TAGDev program (Transforming African agricultural universities to significantly contribute to the growth and development of Africa) and supported by the Mastercard Foundation. This is her story and entrepreneurship journey.

Continue reading “My motivation to start a business was to respond to society’s needs”

My research got me into a USAID funded Project

Aliet Mmbone Ugada is Kenyan student studying MSc Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University with support from Mastercard Foundation through RUFORUM. She shares her journey and transformation thus far, from the two weeks orientation in Egerton University in Kenya, the change and adjustments in Uganda and the cultural shock that came with it and the research that got her in cooperated into a USAID funded project.

Continue reading “My research got me into a USAID funded Project”

[Report] Covid-19 on university finances

Download the complete report through this Link


Fighting malnutrition among children aged 2-5,one pancake at a time

Melas Cayrol Adoko is Beninese by nationality and he completed a Master’s of Science in Food security and Community Nutrition from Gulu University (Uganda). As a key requirement for obtaining the Master’s degree, he, like other students was expected to successfully carry out a research for effective community transformation in relation to his course. For Melas, his research focused on “Improving the Vitamin A and Iron content of a cassava-based pancake for children ages 2-5years’’. A community-oriented recommendation that came out of his research was to promote the consumption of the nutrient-rich pancakes because they are rich in key micronutrients such as Iron and Vitamin A as well macronutrients of health value. Melas shares his engagement with the communities and how RUFORUM Field Attachment Program Award (FAPA) added value to his research finding. Continue reading “Fighting malnutrition among children aged 2-5,one pancake at a time”

Communities in Gulu appreciate training on disinfecting bacteriologically contaminated drinking water

Brenda Amondito graduated from Gulu University with a Master of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition on January 11th 2020. Her masters course was sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation through RUFORUM. Upon completion of her course, RUFORUM awarded her a Field Attachment Programme Award (FAPA) grant to disseminate results and recommendations from her research findings whose research area was focusing on “Determination of the effect of solar water disinfection (SODIS) on bacteriologically contaminated drinking water in Gulu Municipality”. The attachment was to promote the use of SODIS technique to disinfect bacteriologically contaminated drinking water in Gulu Municipality and surrounding areas. The four-months field attachment was such a great opportunity to educate the different communities on SODIS technique, but was also educative to her. she shares her story.

Continue reading “Communities in Gulu appreciate training on disinfecting bacteriologically contaminated drinking water”

Watermelon production is profitable and rewarding


Jemima ALLA HOUESSOU during the 15th Gulu University graduation

Jemima ALLA HOUESSOU, a Beninese by nationality and a former RUFORUM scholar under the Nurturing grant project completed a Masters of Science in Agri-Enterprises Development at Gulu University and Graduated on 11th January 2020. As a former RUFORUM scholar,  She applied for the field attachment (FAPA) award which is a competitive grant program aiming at supporting graduate students to link thesis research findings and recommendations to application and use at community level. She received the ward and shares her story of how she impacted the community.

Continue reading “Watermelon production is profitable and rewarding”

[Press release] Application for 42 PhD research grants, post-doctoral fellowships and Academic Staff Mobility fellowships

RUFORUM Calls for training programs with Support from Carnegie Cooperation of

New York

Kampala 15, April 2020 The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a network of 126 universities in 38 African countries, with funding from Carnegie Cooperation of New York invites application for the following calls;

  1. Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) Research Grants

The RUFORUM Secretariat announces the availability of 42 PhD research grants under the GTA programme to support their doctoral research over two years. The research supported through these grants should as much as possible have a participatory action research approach, working closely with a range of stakeholders and thus contributing to the RUFORUM mission of linking universities more closely with rural communities and with research, extension, development and policy-making agencies. However, basic research may also be considered depending on the research area of the GTA Fellow. To learn more about GTA and for more details about this grant, click here

  1. Call for Post- Doctoral Fellowships

RUFORUM invites application from former RUFORUM-Carnegie supported doctoral alumni for 22 months post-doctoral Fellowships (8) to be based at universities in Africa. The 22 months post-doctoral fellowships builds on, and helps to scale up, the RUFORUM commitment to strengthen postgraduate training and academic mobility in Africa. Since 2012, RUFORUM with support from Carnegie Cooperation of New York and other agencies has facilitated, mentored and contributed to a growing number of doctoral graduates who upon successful completion of their studies return to their home countries and integrate back in teaching and research. Thus, the goal of this call is to increase high retention rate of these graduates in Africa to help strengthen African universities and research institutions to meet the growing demand for higher education and research for creating knowledge and prosperity in the continent. For more details about the fellowship, including the deadline, click here

  1. Call for Post- Doctoral Fellowships with Uganda National Agricultural Research Organisation

This Fellowship is aimed at supporting training and mentoring of recently graduated Doctoral graduates to become independent, internationally-recognized research leaders and to have apprenticeship at a leading African National Agricultural Research Organisation. This is a pilot, to involve initially two Fellows to be based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), one of the research institutes of the Uganda National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO). Successful applicants will develop their potential to become excellent researchers within a structured mentored training environment. The focus of the programme is on rigorous, intensive agricultural research training relevant to Africa, and research projects will be carried out in Uganda. Research projects focusing on any aspect of Horticulture/Beans/Cassava will be considered. The Fellowships will allow for sandwich attachments to NaCRRI and Makerere University and will be jointly funded by RUFORUM and NARO. The Post-doctoral fellowships will be for 22 months. For more details about the fellowship, click here

  1. Expression of Interest for Staff Mobility in African Universities

RUFORUM is pleased to announce availability of Academic Staff Mobility fellowship slots for 2020/2021 Academic year. These Staff exchanges are part of RUFORUM’s efforts to promote Africa’s regional integration through vibrant academic mobility as stipulated in its Vision 2030. Specifically, the goal of the mobility is to provide for collegial mobility in order to enhance faculty-teaching, research and collaboration among RUFORUM Member Universities situated across the five geographical regions of Africa. These exchanges will contribute to improving the quality of teaching at the member universities. While the call is open for teaching and research at the different RUFORUM member universities, it particularly invites applications for teaching at three African Higher Education Centres of Excellence in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda where we have negotiated for joint funding. For more details, please click here

For inquiries or any additional information, please contact Dr. Runyararo J. Rukarwa ( and Ms. Wivine M. Adidja ( at RUFORUM Secretariat

Download complete Press Release. RUFORUM Calls for training programs with Support from Carnegie Cooperation of New York_

I adopted an eight-year-old girl child because Mastercard Foundation sowed the seed through a Scholarship

My name is Achieng Sarah from Nwoya district the northern part of Uganda. I am pursuing a Master of Science degree in Agriculture Enterprises development at Gulu University. If there be a shift indelible and worth marking in my life, then the Mastercard foundation Scholarship which I received through RUFORUM is among the top three. It is one thing to grow up hearing and listening to inspiring speakers but then, it is on a special note a treasured thing when God gives one an opportunity to live in purpose and self-realization.

A famous neuron surgeon Doctor Ben Carson in his biographical story ‘Gifted hands’ once said that;

success is when an individual is given an opportunity or platform to positively impart and impact the lives of others.

In my opinion, it gets to better success when I add that successive success wears the crown, because the chain needs to move from one generation or person to another without being broken. On that note, with great honor let me share my experience as a MasterCard Scholar as follows;

Beginning with exposure to agriculture enterprises development, Mastercard has taught me how to save and invest finances for improving my livelihood and community at large. This was ignited in my heart after the two weeks’ ARC Egerton University Orientation for the scholarship awardees. It did not only expose me to a decent way of living but also taught me how to access such a life as that responsibly.  Apparently, my latest development heart beat is to retire my mother, a school cook into agriculture and it is exciting news that her and I have managed to acquire land for agriculture with part of our savings. I intend to use my acquired university value chain and innovation skills with marketing to set the ball rolling.

Ready for school

Ready for School

More to my experience as Mastercard Scholar, I have not only realized but also begun to experience the things that I dreamt and thought of many years ago. I mean to say that I was raised and brought up by a single struggling mother. Of course, with a thankful heart, it is important to recognize an NGO called Meeting point International affiliated to AVSI for immensely contributing toward my education and restoring hope with esteem to mother and family. Without getting into details of that, it is clear that I have been brought this far by not only family but also community. On that note I found and embraced it thoughtful to begin saying thank you to community with the Mastercard scholarship;

With things beginning one step at a time, last year I adopted an eight-year-old child that had never been to school in her life and begun catering for her education and basic needs.My deepest desire is to see her grow up into the person that am and yet to be. I based my choice on the fact that her peers had been making fun of her coming from a family where nothing good can come out of. It is my prayer that the very people that mock and make fun of her will one day be blessed and transformed by what is about to happen in her new life. I already feel a sense of responsibility for her bright future. With gratitude, if this door has opened because of the fully funded Mastercard Scholarship, then how much more when I work hard and smart with the Grace of God that teaches us to profit? I strongly believe that I can expand my domaine to make the world a better place for the rest out there that are groaning for the hope that I accessed.

Second visit

Checking on the progress of the girl that I adopted

In conclusion, it is just a difference of fourteen months ago when I was a laughing stalk for originating from a family that never amounts to anything good but guess what, boom! I got the Mastercard scholarship. It was done to me but above all, it is instead a seed that was planted in me, hence I strongly believe that my territory will expand to touch lives across the four corners of the earth. It starts with me, my community then I swim in self-realization from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Supervision for research proposal

Research Proposal Consultation

Am forever grateful for the MasterCard Scholarship and for the continued support and guidance from RUFORUM.

For More Information about RUFORUM Contact;
Maureen Agena
Communications and Advocacy
Tel: +256-417-713-300 (Office)
Direct Line: +256-417-713-326


My field work experience in Karamoja- Uganda, demystified stereotypes about the region

Elizabeth Nderitu is a Kenyan and a beneficiary of the Mastercard-RUFORUM postgraduate scholarship given through RUFORUM and placed at Egerton University, one of the implementing Universities.She is from Cohort l pursuing a masters in of Science programme in Community Studies and Extension, She shares with us her research and placement story

Continue reading “My field work experience in Karamoja- Uganda, demystified stereotypes about the region”

In this together: Stepping up to meet a global challenge-Mastercard Foundation CEO’s Message on COVID-19

mastercard1In times of crisis, the best of us often shines through. In the midst of this pandemic, we see health professionals caring for the sick at great personal risk; young people mobilizing volunteers through apps to deliver food and supplies; and manufacturers redirecting production capacity to make urgently-needed health care supplies. The acts of solidarity we are witnessing in the face of this unprecedented challenge inspire hope. They remind us of the enduring power of human resilience.

Yet, COVID-19 has also highlighted great inequities around us. Millions of daily-wage earners globally cannot afford to stay home. Cramped living quarters in low-income communities render social distancing impossible. Those facing poverty are more exposed to this infectious disease. In its aftermath, they will also be more vulnerable to the economic effects that will outlive it.

As this fast-paced, high-stakes crisis evolves, two things are immediately clear. First, we have a duty to mitigate the immediate shocks to the most vulnerable. Second, we must lay the groundwork for recovering livelihoods and rebuilding communities. And we must start now. We can do this by protecting and strengthening institutions in key sectors. These organizations, and the ecosystems they occupy, provide a strong foundation for communities and economies now and in the future. They enable resilience.

Since 2008, the Mastercard Foundation has invested billions of dollars in expanding access to financial services and education in Africa, benefitting millions of people and their families. More recently, we turned our focus towards enabling young people in Africa, and Indigenous youth in Canada to access education, skills, and dignified work. To deliver on our mission, we forged a strong network of partnerships with universities, financial service providers, entrepreneurs, incubators, community and youth organizations, and government agencies. These are the very institutions that animate economies.

While COVID-19 may slow our work to address dignified work for young people, it will not stop it. We remain fully committed to our EleV and Mastercard Foundation Scholars programs and to our Young Africa Works strategy. We will adapt as needed to continue working with our partners on enabling young people to access education, skills, and dignified work. At the same time, it’s clear that we must step up and join with others to address this pandemic—and protect vulnerable communities.

Today, we are initiating the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program. This program has two fundamental aims. First, to address immediate needs such as support for health workers and first responders and to provide emergency funds for students.

We will do this as a matter of priority.

Second, we will double down on initiatives whose impact will span both the present and the future and enable economic recovery. Specifically, we will work to:

  • Expand access to financial services for micro, small, and medium enterprises, which will enable businesses to withstand the economic effects of COVID-19, explore options for digitizing their businesses, and potentially contribute to public health response through the production and distribution of critically-needed health care products and equipment.
  • Enable e-learning to assist young people whose education was disrupted by this pandemic. We will work with educational organizations to help them transition to digital delivery of courses, mentoring, and student outreach. This will not only prepare learning institutions for future crises but also for the future of education.
  • Support the adoption of digital solutions to address real needs of populations such as financial services; food production and delivery; housing and construction; transportation and logistics; as well as tools for everything from public health to supply chain management. We know that economies with widespread access to digital platforms and marketplaces have fared better than those without this level of connectivity.

By supporting these initiatives, we will be deepening the capacity of diverse institutions to withstand and respond to this global pandemic, while building their resilience. On the other side of this challenge, we want to see communities rise up stronger and institutions emerge ready to lead and support the important work of reigniting economies.

There is no blueprint to navigating this crisis. However, the actions we take now will shape the post-COVID-19 world. This crisis is teaching us how interdependent we are as well as how powerful collective action can be. As individuals, each of us can do our part to slow down the virus. This, too, is an expression of solidarity. Collectively, we can be a counterforce to the economic effects of COVID-19. We can rebuild in ways that make our world stronger, fairer, and safer for all of us.

After all, we are in this together.
Reeta Roy President and CEO, Mastercard Foundation

Download complete ReetaRoy_Statement_COVID19RRP_2020-04-09

Promoting solar drying technology to reduce post-harvest losses among vegetable and fruit farmers in northern Uganda and West Nile regions

Kumi Peter Korsuk was one of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars supported through RUFORUM who graduated this year on 11th January with Msc in Agri-enterprises Development at Gulu University, one of the TAGDev implementing Universities. As a way of supporting some of the graduates to advance their research findings by interacting with communities, RUFORUM provided a financial award known as  The Field Attachment Program Award (FAPA). Peter, a beneficiary of the award shares his experience and what value the ward added to him and the community that he worked with. Continue reading “Promoting solar drying technology to reduce post-harvest losses among vegetable and fruit farmers in northern Uganda and West Nile regions”

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