Transforming cassava to improve livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Greenwich
Unit of AssessmentAgriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Mathematical Sciences: Applied Mathematics
Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Food Sciences
Summary of the impact
The tropical root crop, cassava, is a food security crop for 450 million
people in Africa. This case study describes the impact pathway from
strategic research on transformation to make safe, cheap and valued
products for food and industrial use, to impact on the ground in Africa
benefitting 90,000 smallholder farmers with strong prospects to increase
to 250,000 within eight years. The impact pathway involved using:
a) strategic research on cyanogen reduction during cassava processing,
overcoming problems with mycotoxin contamination, improved processing and
b) adaptive research to develop market-based solutions to use cassava as
a commercial/industrial commodity;
c) large scale impact on the ground in Africa through Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation funding and take up of the products by the private
Cassava production, processing and marketing provides a major source of
income for 450 million people, often women and the poorest, in sub-Saharan
Africa. Cassava is strategically important as a food source and famine
reserve, combining high calorific efficiency with versatile low cost/input
and reliable and flexible production; it is also seen as a pro-poor
vehicle for economic development. However farmers, particularly from
remote areas, have restricted market access because the roots are highly
perishable, bulky and expensive to transport. In addition, there are
potential food safety issues associated with cyanide-containing compounds
and mycotoxins in dried products.
Andrew Westby, Professor of Food Technology (1987 to present), and his
team at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich,
have been at the forefront of strategic and adaptive research on the
intrinsic properties of cassava and its transformation to make safe, cheap
and valued products that bring value to farmers and others in the supply
Westby, Bainbridge (1996-2001) and co-workers aimed to produce safe and
shelf-stable products. Research (1994-1998) on the breakdown of cyanogenic
compounds during processing used methods developed at NRI [3b] and focused
on the importance of tissue disruption in cyanogen reduction [3.1, 3.3].
This paved the way for adaptive research for cyanogen reduction during
processing (drying and various types of fermentation). Research [3c, 3.6]
(1993-1995) by Wareing (1988-2001) and Westby isolated and characterised
mycotoxins from cassava products and showed that:
a) cassava could support the production of a wide range of mycotoxins,
including sterigmatocystin, neosolaniol, cyclopiazonic acid and
b) these could be isolated from traditionally processed products;
c) consumers preferred non-mouldy products.
These findings led to research on the development of drying regimes that
prevented mould growth and mycotoxin production, which improved product
quality and consumers' health and were readily suited to small and
Development of techniques to produce a safer product was crucial in
taking forward a cluster of research projects between 1999 and 2006 by
Westby, Tomlins (1987 to present) and Graffham (1993 to present). This
research had funding from the UK Government and the European Commission to
develop and commercialise cassava processing systems and products in order
to maximise benefits and sustain rural livelihoods [3a, 3d]. It took
holistic approaches and a strong market-demand focus [3.2]. Strategic and
adaptive research on processing of cassava was integrated with value chain
studies, consumer acceptability [3.5] and systems analysis to determine
the institutional arrangements to improve market access and achieve impact
at a pilot level.
In particular, research has created improved processing technologies to
produce high quality cassava chips or flour - the flour usually
substituting for imported wheat, [3d, 3e, 3f, 3g, 3h] and improved
traditional products, e.g. fufu [3f, 3h]. Adaptive research was
completed to understand and optimise the use of high quality cassava
flours in paperboard, plywood adhesives, sugar syrups and other food uses
In 2007, the Department for International Development's Research into
Use Programme published case studies summarising the above and its
validation. These are:
References to the research
(REF1 submitted staff in bold, **REF2 Output)
3.1 Bainbridge, Z., Harding, S., French, L., Kapinga, R., & Westby,
A. (1998). A study of the role of tissue disruption in the removal
of cyanogens during cassava root processing. Food chemistry, 62(3),
3.2 Graffham, A. J., Ababio, J. T., Dziedozoave , N., Day, G., Andah, A.,
Budu, A., Ayernor, G. S., Gallat, S., & Westby, A. (1998)
Market potential for cassava flours and starches in Africa: A case study
in Ghana. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad) 75(2), 267-270
3.3 Jones, D. M., Trim, D. S., Bainbridge, Z. A., & French, L.
(1994). Influence of selected process variables on the elimination of
cyanide from cassava. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture,
66(4), 535-542. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.2740660418
3.5 Tomlins, K., Sanni, L., Oyewole, O., Dipeolu, A., Ayinde, I.,
Adebayo, K., & Westby, A. (2007). Consumer acceptability and
sensory evaluation of a fermented cassava product (Nigerian fufu). Journal
of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(10), 1949-1956.
3.6 Wareing, P. W., Westby, A., Gibbs, J. A., Allotey, L. T.,
& Halm, M. (2001). Consumer preferences and fungal and mycotoxin
contamination of dried cassava products from Ghana. International
Journal of Food Science & Technology, 36(1), 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2001.00419.x
Major research grants:
3a A. Westby. Transfer needs assessment methodologies and
Post-harvest technologies for non- grain starch staples in sub-Saharan
Africa. (DFID through NR International Limited, code ZN0028):
3b A. Westby. Influence of cultivation and traditional processing on
cyanogens in fresh and processed cassava foods. (DFID, R5077);
3c A. Westby. Mycotoxin potential of root crops substrates.
(DFID, R5078). 1992-1995; £181,400.
3dA. Westby. Orientation of cassava chip production in relation to
national and international markets. (DFID contact R6506); 1996-1999;
3e A. Westby. Improved cassava chips processing to access urban
markets. (DFID, R7580); 2000 - 2003; £258,671.
3f A. Westby. Commercialization of cassava fufu processing in West
Africa that maximises benefits to livelihoods. (DFID contract
R9495), 1999-2003; £231,394.
3g A. J. Graffham. Cassava as an industrial commodity - Approaches
for expanding markets. (DFID, R8268; R8432): 2005-06; £267,310.
3h A. Westby. Development of small/medium scale enterprise sector
producing cassava based products to meet urban demand W Africa
(Cassava-SMEs). (EC through NR International Ltd., code ZJ 033):
Details of the impact
For many developing countries, smallholder farmers producing staples such
as cassava have the potential to drive, and benefit from, economic growth.
Lack of competitiveness for fresh roots and cassava-derived products has
consigned millions of smallholder cassava farmers, particular women, to
continued poverty and food insecurity.
In 2008, the challenge was to develop validated research outputs into
significant impact, through uptake by the private sector and root
purchases from smallholders. Research outputs and validation pilots
undertaken by Professor Westby and team have been widely used. A key
example is the pan-African project, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa
(C:AVA). Its aim is to develop smallholder-supplied high quality cassava
flour (HQCF) and related product value chains, e.g. dried fufu.
Success has been predicated on adopting a value chain approach and
adapting technologies to support intermediary and end user companies; this
has created sustainable value chains that have generated social, economic
and policy benefits, with significant reach and depth of impact,
especially benefitting women and other disadvantaged groups.
Based on monitoring data reported to the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, C:AVA has:
- Established value chains for HQCF and related products in Nigeria,
Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, with annual increases in HQCF
- Supported 51 small-medium scale enterprises, three associations and 89
village processing groups to process HQCF. These include 25 factories in
Nigeria including Oamsal, Wahan Food and Walili Mata; six in Ghana
including Caltech Ventures, First Door and Amasa Agroprocessing; three
associations in Uganda; and seven companies in Malawi including Universal
Industries Limited; 20 community processing groups and three enterprises
in Tanzania, e.g. Kejo Enterprises.
- Supported local engineering companies (for example, Nobex Technical
Company, Nigeria) that have developed improved processing equipment to
support the expanding demand for HQCF.
- Generated in excess of 42,616 tonnes of HQCF between April 2008 and
March 2013, with 23,695 tonnes produced in 2012/2013 alone.
- Benefitted over 90,000 smallholder farmers; they are estimated to
benefit by $33.0 million as a consequence of project activities by
- Increased incomes will be determined in impact surveys in 2014, but are
estimated, based on monitoring data, to be in the range of $310-370 per
- Surveys indicate that women involved in C:AVA have:
- enhanced technical and management skills;
- benefitted from labour saving technologies;
- new employment opportunities, increased incomes and greater dietary
- increased independence.
- Promoted the development of instant fufu as a commercial
product in Ghana and Nigeria, produced by companies such as Sunshine
Foods, Ayoola Food and Ubest Industries.
- Supported commercial companies to adopt HQCF. These include:
- plywood manufacturers in Ghana, e.g. Western Veneer and Lumbar
- paperboard manufacturers in Uganda, e.g. Katon Industries, and Malawi,
e.g. Packaging Industries Malawi Limited;
- local bakeries and food manufacturing companies in all countries eg
Rite Foods, Nigeria; Universal Foods, Malawi, and Britannia Foods,
Impact has generated change at the individual level beyond direct
sales. For example, Zainabu Akol from Uganda used her income from higher
cassava production and sales to buy poultry. The poultry manure increased
production from her orange garden and cattle were bought from the cassava
and orange sales (her story is here at 13:45 minutes: http://cava.nri.org/multimedia/44-
videos/47-video-gallery). In Malawi, Mrs Melia, a food
processor, used HQCF as a wheat flour replacement to produce mandazis
which generated more profit that she aims to invest in a start-up clothing
At group level, technical and management skills have been
enhanced, for example in Tanzania by the Ukumbozi village processors'
group which has 31 members, 18 of whom are women. After training, the
quantity and quality of HQCF production increased, and new processing
equipment relieved the drudgery of processing. C:AVA facilitated links to
an intermediary and the group now has an assured market with an agri-food
processing company, which also provides credit. The lessons learned and
success achieved by C:AVA has informed Nigeria's Cassava Transformation
Agenda and hence national policy and strategy. C:AVA teams have
made inputs in the cassava sector in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi.
C:AVA success has generated further interest from the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation and other donors. The Department for International
Development has adopted the C:AVA project approach in its AgriTT pilot
project to develop cassava value chains in Uganda, using Chinese
technologies. The Gates Foundation is looking to invest a further $18
million in a second phase of C:AVA under African leadership; the vision is
that within eight years, at least 250,000 smallholders will have sold at
least $400 million of roots into value chains.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Program Officer responsible for the Cassava Adding Value for Africa
Project at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Agricultural
Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
5.2 The Chief Executive Officer, Nobex Technical Company, Nigeria.
5.3 Chairman, African Innovations Institute, Uganda.
5.4 Project Manager of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa, and Director
Designate of CAVA Phase II, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta,