Opportunities in the Cassava sector in Cameroon
Nowadays in Buea – the city of Mount Fako – entrepreneurship training are constantly organized like in many other urban places in Cameroon. These aim to motivate people to start working on private initiatives or projects. One may ask; where should l start? Well there are numerous opportunities in the agricultural sector. Working with or in the agricultural sector does not necessarily mean being a farmer as many may tend to think. Instead there are many opportunities therein for each person according competency. In this article we will explore some of these opportunities in outbound logistics, planting, processing, packaging and marketing stages in the cassava value chain.
Like many things, it all starts with counseling. Helping farmers make the right decisions is very important step towards success. Traditionally, farmers practice subsistence agriculture which relied heavily on ancestral practices. Today, the move from subsistence to commercial grade agriculture creates demand for counseling in the area of land acquisition and tenure, weather management, pest management, fertilizer application, seed variety, marketing, grants and financial assistance, etc. A little study we carried out shows that most serious farmers have no problem paying for counseling with some already paying up to 10,000frs per work session – the only requirement is that they should be able to trust that you will deliver.
Let’s start from the beginning. In 2015, the government of Cameroon and her partners launched a project – Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project (aka PIDMA) – aimed at boosting production of Maize, Cassava and Sorghum for the agro-industries in Cameroon.
One notable challenge slowing down the project is the lack of planting material especially for Cassava. Since the project was incited by local agro-industries, this necessitates the need for special high-quality cassava cuttings which is in short supply thus not widely available to farmers. This presents a viable business opportunity for persons who will like to specialize in the production and supply of Cassava cuttings to farmers.
In the South West Region for example, some farmers report buying a single cutting of about 15 centimeters long for as much as 25frs per cutting. With an IITA recommended planting density of 10,000 stands per hectare, it means a typical farmer spends about 250,000frs per hectare on Cassava cuttings alone. Do you now see the hidden opportunity lying underneath?
In Cameroon, the agricultural sector in general and the cassava branch in particular suffer from lack of adequate outbound logistics. The transportation challenge cannot be over emphasized. If farms to market roads are of the responsibility of the state, what about the transportation tools? Have you observed how our cassava are transported, stored and processed? Studies have shown that more than 30% of post-harvest losses in cassava sector are a result of inappropriate transportation. Find a solution to this challenge and you will be able to cut these losses and capture some value from the 30% post-harvest losses.
Still haven’t seen what interests you? Welcome to the processing stage. Traditionally, Cassava is usually processed into Gari, Water Fufu, Starch, Cassava Dough and Boboloh but today even rural dwellers are transforming cassava to products like Cassava flour (a substitute to wheat flour) and Cassava Spaghetti (a substitute for household brand name Spaghetti). Literally, there is no limit to what you can do with Cassava. Cassava has over 300 derivative products some of which are substitutes to highly demanded products in our markets. Cassava is used food, construction, energy and textile industries. A search online will help give you more insights into this topic
For those with machine and engineering background you can already see that there is lots of opportunity here for you. There is need for portable and affordable machines for the processing and transformation of Cassava.
Lots of business opportunities can also be found in packaging both fresh and processed cassava roots. Many smallholders are now tackling the problem of high perishability by transforming cassava into many finished products. With the ban on plastic bags imposed in Cameroon, packaging and storage remain some their major challenges. This presents another opportunity for curious minds like yours to harness.
An example of startups that are already taking advantage of this opportunity is EKOSE Carrier Bags to whom we [AGRO-HUB] outsource our packaging activities.
The last stage covers the marketing aspect. More than 50% of cassava farms remain unexploited due to lack of roads, storage and knowledge of need on the part of farmers. The most important challenge in this sector is lack of marketing links between the growers and the numerous industries needing cassava by-products such as starch, flour and glue for their production factories. This is a very good niche to exploit as a broker, a wholesaler. Distribution channels can as well be established for working on improving the value chains.
There is more to be done in the aspect of agricultural marketing system. Cassava is not alone; the same problems are noticeable in other agricultural produce sectors.
Dr. Stephanie Mvodo is a university lecturer, researcher, reviewer, agribusiness consultant and public speaker. She is very thrilled about topics relating to agriculture and rural development. Her focus is on post-harvest activities among which, marketing and entrepreneurship. She is mostly concerned about development of agricultural sector via development of supply as well as distribution channels.