Cassava Improving the Lives of People through DONATA Innovation Platforms
Wednesday 29 August 2012
By Richard Bockarie Sr 

cross section of participantsThe project Manager of the Promotion of Science and Technology in Africa (PSAD) under the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Mr.Ifidon Ohiomoba   together with the Communication Officer Mr. Eric McGaw has concluded a four day assessment tour of the activities of “Dissemination of New Agricultural Technology in Africa” (DONATA) in selected areas in the Bombali, Kenema and Moyamba Districts.

Giving an over view of DONATA activities in   the three districts visitedSite inspection, the Focal Points of the districts explained the situation of cassava production, processing and marketing prior to the introduction of DONATA in the districts adding: cassava production was wholly based on the use of unsuitable and unproductive land preparation methods, poor management practices as well as the use of low yielding traditional varieties. They told PSTAD Manager Ifidon the progress farmers have made in the district. “Our farmers now very much appreciate  SLARI technologies such as best –bet land preparation and management practices, timely planting to especially evade grass hopper infestation common in the dry season in the northern part of the country and the wide spread use of SLARI high yielding cassava varieties”, one of DONATA District Focal Points explained.

On the issue of moving away from cassava production to processing and marketing, the District Focal Points explained to their visitors the gains that have been made including the support and collaboration of organizational partners in providing cassava processing machines. “We are making a steady and satisfactorily progressive     shift from the usual practice of boil and eat to processing cassava into gari,fu-fu and cassava flower to give various other products”, the visitors were told. They disclosed that the added step of  processing  has not only given cassava products a longer shelve-life but has led to better market opportunities and hence generating and putting more money into the pockets of our farmers as well as improving the food situation in the country.

The   contribution of the Innovation Platform for Technology Adoption (IPTA) initiative to the success stories of DONATA was also explained.”Before now cassava farmers were disorganized and uncoordinated to put up a decisive fight against the problems facing them such as getting farm inputs on time, the need to make enough raw materials or cassava available and to add value to it through processing and the problem of transportation among others ultimately stifled the quality of life of cassava farmers and others who earn their livelihood from the cassava sub sector,” DONATA Focal Point for Bombali District Lansana Sesay said.

In order to lay to rest many of these debilitating issues holding back the cassava sub sector, cassava producers,transporters,service providers of farm inputs, the media etc.came together to form Innovation Platforms for Technology Adoption (IPTA) in the three districts. The Platforms have been able to help facilitate and bring together stake holders in the sub sector in   spreading and adopting SLARI technologies, addressing processing and transportation issues, timely supply of inputs among many others.

Disclosing how cassava has now improved the lives of farmers and others through innovation Platforms, a good number of farmers acknowledged that because of improved coordination, the availability and use of high yielding varieties, timely supply of farm inputs, available processing machines, improved transportation and other needed services, they are now getting more money to handle domestic problems, pay the fees of their children and other relatives.”I do not only rely on the cassava roots to get money but I even get more money by  selling the leaves and get NGOs, other organizations and individuals from many parts of the country to buy from me cassava cuttings for their clients”, John Kamara in Mokena said.

Disabled people of the Binkolo Growth Centre that is part of the Innovation Platforms for Technology Adoption said, “unlike many of our colleagues, we do not beg for our livelihood but work as blacksmiths to make tools in exchange for cassava tubers that we process into gari, fufu and other products that bring us money”           





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