I love Cassava :)
Updated: Dec 28, 2019
As an extended family, we are fortunate enough to own a significant amount of land in lower central Nigeria on which we do smallholder farming, our crop of focus is cassava. Over the last 5 years, we have been doing quite a lot of research in terms the strains of crop we plant, how we harvest, and how we get our end product to markets in Lagos. We are very traditional, we are not a big business, we don't claim to be farming 'experts', we are just family farmers, both on my paternal and maternal side, everybody in the extended family has direct smallholder farming experience and everybody owns farms. We farm to feed our large families and communities, and we also look to sell locally in the marketplace. That's our angle - small scale, communal agriculture, taking our time, enjoying the farming.
We have also been trying to figure out how we get our excess produce beyond our local markets and to the great urban markets in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna. There's a demand in those cities. It all sounds fairly straightforward, however, transporting agricultural goods through Nigeria by trailer, and then having to negotiate and work with administrators and owners at some of those urban markets is pretty intense.
Here I am at Mile 12 market in Lagos, exhausted, after a 14 hour trip, talking with a few tomato vendors (asking them to make some room for us to unload our trailer), we just brought about one hundred 50kg bags of Garri from Edo state into Lagos. I have made that trip dozens of times with different sizes of loads. Always an exciting journey that's filled with danger, yet very rewarding in terms how I much I have learned about the agricultural value chain in Nigeria.
'You no say money no be problem, na rice & tomato.. When we enter di place, they want fight us. Ask festus' - KennyBlaq
Yaro da garri abokin tafiyar manya. "A young boy who has garri (powdered cereal) can journey with the elders."
Wanda Allah ya zuba ma garin nono ba zai sha da tsamiya Ba. "Who God powers his garri with milk, will not have to drink it with just tamarind." (Milk with garri was a luxury while tamarind fruit available in the forest can just improve the taste.)
Wanka da garri ba ya maganin yunwa. "Taking a bath with garri is not going to cure hunger."
To make garri, cassava tubers are peeled, washed and grated or crushed to produce a mash. The mash could be mixed with palm oil (oil garri) before being placed in a porous bag. It is then placed in an adjustable press machine for 1–3 hours to remove excess starchy water. When the cassava has become dry enough, it is ready for the next step. It is then sieved and fried in a large clay frying pot with or without palm oil. The resulting dry granular garri can be stored for long periods. It may be pounded or ground to make a fine flour.
Eba is a stiff dough made by soaking garri in hot water and kneading it with a wooden baton until it becomes a smooth doughy staple, that is served as part of a meal with various soups and sauces. Some of these include okra soup, egusi soup, vegetable soup, afang soup, banga soup and bitter leaf soup among others. For a full meal, garri is usually cooked by adding it to hot water, then kneading it into dough. This is eaten with different types of thick, leafy vegetable stews, melon seed stews, peanut stews, or beans. Smooth garri (known as lebu to the Yoruba) can be mixed with pepper and other spicy ingredients. A small amount of warm water and palm oil is added and mixed with the hand to soften up. This type of garri is served with fried fish. It is also served with frejon on Good Friday.
Agriculture Development in Nigeria Today
In spite of the oil, agriculture remains the base of the Nigerian economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. Agriculture faces many challenges in Nigeria, including an outdated land tenure system that constrains access to land, low levels of irrigation (less than 1 percent of cropped land is under proper irrigation), poor access to credit, inefficient fertilizer procurement and distribution, inadequate storage facilities and poor access to markets have all combined to keep agricultural productivity low and post harvest losses high.
Even though agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy and employs two-thirds of the entire labour force, the production hurdles have significantly stifled the performance of the sector. It is estimated that Nigeria has loses USD 10 billion in annual export opportunity from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to continuous decline in the production of those commodities. Food (crop) production increases have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency. The challenges of scaling agricultural production include reliance on rainfed agriculture, smallholder farms (90% + of all agricultural output in sub sahara Africa is small holder), and low productivity due to poor planting material, low fertilizer application, and a weak agricultural extension system.
Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria accounts for cassava production of up to 20 per cent of the world. However, large scale commercial plantations are rare it's all done on small scale farms.
The government and private sector have recently started to join efforts to develop new ways to enhance and improve the efficiency of domestic cassava production and processing. A range of policies and initiatives have been implemented in the last 5 years to strengthen the cassava value chain, from production to marketing. However, because of the country’s massive size and diversity, different regions face different constraints because of growing pains associated with managing a decentralized approach to the farming industry.
It's going to take a while to develop and re-energize this critical section of Nigeria's economy. The good news is that the effort is already underway, millions of people are being mobilized across the nation.
We are planting seeds, investing in our rural communities, we are nurturing them, we are moving forward.
Souces: FAO.org, Wikipedia