Success Stories: Turning cassava into cash in Malawi
Kaboma Banda, sitting under the shadow of a partially leafy tree in his courtyard, peels off a gigantic cassava tuber. His grass-thatched house located in the somewhat hilly terrain of Chintheche village in Nkhata Bay District of Northern Malawi is only accessible through craggy paths lined with shrubs and arid grass.
But the 48-year old has lofty aspirations. He dreams about constructing a splendid house, adorned with modern furniture, connected to piped water and fully electrified.
When those glorious days finally come, as he believes they will, the seasoned farmer would probably love to see his children, who usually put on ragged clothes, dressed in designer shirts.
His hopes of better days are inspired by his newly found income earner—cassava. Banda has become the crop’s seed multiplier and supplier under the Root and Tuber Crops (RTC-ACTION) Project, which IITA is implementing with support from Irish Aid.
The initiative’s purpose is to increase the contributions of RTC to food security, nutrition, and incomes of small-scale farming households in the country.
Cassava’s tuberous root is an essential staple for millions of people globally especially those residing in low rainfall areas. Its usefulness does not end there: Its stems are seeds; its leaves can be converted into nutritious vegetables; while its peel is used as animal feed.
In spite of its enormous value, in Malawi, cassava, as Banda and many others can testify, has remained a crop grown largely by marginal farmers, often for their own subsistence rather than economic gain.
“Until recently, I have been growing cassava just to feed my family,” he asserts.
IITA selected Banda as a seed multiplier last year. He has, thus far, sold 300 bundles of cassava stems earning him around K400 000.
Today, Banda, who is a subject of Group Village Headman Chipolopolo in Traditional Authority Fukamapiri in Nkhata Bay, is enjoying a new experience. “I am constructing a shop along the main road and again, I am able to pay school fees without problems,” he said.