Uganda produces more than five million tonnes of cassava annually. Nowadays it is taken as a commercial crop.
Cassava can be grown anywhere in Uganda because 80 percent is arable land, according to National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) survey.
Solomon Ssenoga, a famous cassava farmer in Nakabululu village, Luwero district says cassava takes 14-21 days to germinate and the best planting season should be at the start of the first rains (March-April) so that the second rains (August-October) find the plantation on the proper course.
The crop performs well due to the favorable conditions in the area.
Henry Ssekyewa, an agronomist, says cassava has many products which a farmer can do to have value addition, they include starch, quality flour and chips for use as raw materials in bakeries, breweries, bioethanol, paper boards, bio-degradable plastics, animal feeds, and textiles.
According to Ssekyewa companies require cassava starch which they export and the demand continues to be high.
Ssenoga says that the major challenge of growing cassava s is the farmers’ low adaption rate to modern farming methods.
“Some farmers still believe that traditional methods of farming are better than modern ones. Some farmers, during planting, cover the plants up to the stem (about four feet) instead of the recommended two feet from the ground,” he notes.
Ssenoga advises cassava farmers to use Nase 19 and NaroCas1 for flour. According to Ssenoga not all cassava varieties are suitable for value addition.
Many farmers have acquired electric cassava slicing machines. Simon Ayo another farmer says cassava tubers are washed, dried, and placed into the machine, which shreds them.
He says his constant contact with the Namulonge-based researchers exposed him to a new technique of selling cassava cuttings without uprooting the tubers, which he has been doing for the last four years.
The farmers urged the government to establish training centres for farmers to improve their farming methods.
Facts about cassava
Cassava is among the high-priority commodity crops on the National Agricultural Research Organisation’s research agenda.
The crop was introduced in Uganda by Arab traders between 1862 and 1875.
Its cultivation greatly increased between 1931 and 1933. The cash crop also ranks second among the major food crops regarded as the most important cheap source of staple food.
Its flexibility in the farming and food systems, ability to do well in marginally stressed environments, and apparent resistance/ tolerance to pests and diseases, particularly locusts, encouraged its rapid cultivation.
It is presently grown throughout the country. A total of 3.5 million metric tonnes of the crop were produced from 450,000 hectares of land until 1990 when a mosaic epidemic devastated the crop.
The Government recently announced that cassava will be adopted as the main hunger and famine food crop in Uganda.
A spacing of 0.75mx0.75m to 2mx2m while planting is important. Cuttings should be at least 30–40cm in length. “Plant mature cuttings”
On an acre, she plants three 100kgbags of cuttings.
To make money from cassava growing; one has to process it into edible forms such as high-quality flour, which can be mixed with millet, animal feeds, and starch.
Sometimes after harvesting the cassava, the peels, dries, and crushes the tubers before packing the flour.
One acre of cassava at least gives her 1-5 tonnes, depending on the season.
Experts say there are a number of interventions that farmers can put in practice. First, planting clean seedlings would increase yields by 13% and improving soil fertility would push it by 17%.
A cassava farmer must do good management practices; if they are done a farmer can harvest 30-40 tons per hectare. Experts recommend planting seedlings one metre apart for optimum performance.
Cassava takes between 10-12 months to mature.
According to ASARECA, an agricultural research association in Eastern and Central Africa, about 80% of Ugandans depend on cassava for their livelihood. Cassava is the second staple food after maize in Africa.