Cassava Production in Nigeria: How to Start in 2019

Cassava production in Nigeria is an important agribusiness which has contributed greatly to the economy of the country. In fact, it is said that Nigeria is the largest producer of this commodity in the world.

Based on 2017 estimates, 24 out of the 36 states in the country produce cassava and their production output is put at 89, 000 metric tons.

cassava production in Nigeria

In 2000, it was revealed that the average yield of cassava per hectare is 10.6 tonnes and over 60 percent of the cassava produced is processed and consumed locally.

Cassava Production in Nigeria: How to Start in 2019

Cassava is originally a South American crop. It became popular in the southern part of Nigeria during the slave trade period in the 16th century. It got a boost in the late 19th century when former slaves returned to Nigeria and introduced processing techniques for this crop.

Since then, the crop has grown to become an important cash crop with Nigeria attaining the status of largest producer in the world at an estimated production of 34 million tonnes per annum

If you’re looking to start your cassava farm this year, we have compiled the necessary information you need to get started.

But first, let’s take a look at a brief profile of cassava

Cassava is known by the scientific name – Manihot esculenta. It is a perennial shrub with a root that is edible. The plant grows primarily in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The root is rich in carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins B and C, and essential minerals. However, the composition of these nutrients varies based on the variety and age of the harvested crop, and soil conditions, climate, and other environmental factors during cultivation.

In Nigeria, cassava is usually grown at the subsistence level by small-scale farmers who sell the surplus. The plant thrives in poor soil and cassava farming is not labor intensive. One of the advantages of cassava farming is that it provides food security, particularly during conflicts because invaders cannot easily destroy or remove the crop since it grows underground.

When planting, cassava is usually intercropped with vegetables, plantation crops (such as coconut, oil palm, and coffee), yam, sweet potato, melon, maize, rice, groundnut, or other legumes. Many of the small-scale farmers don’t use fertilizers because of its cost and lack of availability.

Cassava is known as an edible crop, but apart from food, it is very versatile and can be used as an ingredient in many types of products such as confectionery, sweeteners, glues, plywood, textiles, paper, biodegradable products, monosodium glutamate, and drugs. Also, the chips and pellets are often used as part of animal feed and in alcohol production.

In terms of food, cassava can be cooked in many ways with the root of the sweet variety known for its delicate flavor. It can also be processed into flour that is used in breads, cakes, and cookies. In Brazil, detoxified cassava is ground and cooked to prepare a crunchy meal which is also known as farofa. This meal is used in a variety of ways as a condiment, toasted in butter, or eaten alone as a side dish.

Typically, raw cassava is composed of 60% water, 38% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and has negligible fat. It also contains vitamin C, but asides this vitamin, it has no micronutrients of significant content. When cooked, cassava starch has a digestibility of over 75%.

Additional, cassava has toxic components with the most important one being the cyanogenic glucosides (linamarin and lotaustralin). When hydrolyzed, these glucosides release hydrocyanic acid and the presence of this cyanide in cassava is of particular concern for human and for animal consumption.

The concentration of these toxic components generally varies depending on the cassava varieties and also based on climatic and cultural conditions. This is why it is important that you take note of these factors when selecting the cassava species you want to grow.

In 2007, Nigeria produced an estimated 46 million tons making the country the world’s largest producer. The continent of Africa produces over half of the world’s cassava supply annually. Although most of the cassava produced on the continent is consumed locally there is a massive export potential for this crop.

Now, let’s take a look at the steps involved in cassava production in Nigeria.

Step 1: Select the site 

The first step to planting cassava is to set up your site. Prior to the setup, you should ensure you select the ideal cassava farm by picking a suitable area.

Generally, cassava grows well in well-drained loamy soil with adequate rainfall as well as suitable warm and moist climatic conditions.

When looking for the ideal site, here are a few things to look out for

  • A land with thick vegetation around it,
  • An excellent soil texture,
  • A flat or gently sloping land

You can also get the locals to ascertain the texture and richness of the soil before you buy the land. Once you have obtained the land, the next thing is to prepare the soil for the planting season. Some of the activities you can carry out include manuring your soil, preparing good seedbeds, planting the cassava along with other crops.

Step 2: Select the ideal cassava variety

There are several varieties of cassava that you can grow on your farm. In fact, there are currently more than 40 cassava varieties. To make the right choice, you should find out the acceptable variation in the market. This will ensure that you can sell your cassava quickly once you harvest.

In addition, you should also look for a variety that gives great yields, grows fast, and resistant to pests and diseases.  Other features of a good variety include varieties with good food quality, varieties with good cooking abilities, varieties that bulk early, varieties with good ground storability and varieties that are tolerant to weed. It is very important that you avoid breeds that susceptible to pests and diseases.

Some of the recommended varieties that are known for their high yield and processing quality include TMS 30572, NR 8082, NR8083, TMS 4(2) 1425, TMS 81/00110, TMS 92/0326. You can contact the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for more information on recommended cassava varieties.

Step 3: Select disease-free cassava stem cuttings

Optimal cassava production depends on the supply of quality stem cuttings. However, these stem cuttings are highly perishable because they dry up within a few days.

This is why selecting healthy stems is crucial to growing rich cassava crops that your market would quickly purchase. Some of the places you can obtain cassava stem cuttings include town markets and villages. However, you should rely on your farm for subsequent supply of healthy cassava stem cuttings after the initial purchase.  It is important to plant healthy stem cuttings because they reduce the incidence of cassava pests and diseases.

Step 4: Planting

Some of the things you need to consider before planting include the land tillage method, the time of the year, the seed bed type, and the method of preparation, handling, and planting of the cassava stem cuttings.

When you plant the cassava under suitable conditions, your chances of a good yield will be increased and this will ensure that you have enough to meet the demands of your buyers.

There are different types of planting

  • Horizontal Planting: This involves planting the cutting 5-10cm deep into the soil in dry climates.
  • Vertical Planting: In this case, the cassava cuttings are planted vertically to avoid rot particularly during the rainy season.
  • Inclined Planting: The cuttings are inclined at 45 degrees and planted leaving 2-3 nodes above the ground. This method is used in areas with the least rainfall

The cassava stem cuttings should be measured at 25 cm in length should be planted at a spacing of 1m x1m and to achieve maximum yield, the dead stems should be removed and replaced when found.

Generally, the best time to plant cassava in Nigeria is in April, it can but it can be extended to October. Planting is usually done early in the morning or late afternoons when the sun is cool to prevent excessive heat on the crops.

We have highlighted a sample costing for setting up a cassava farm in Nigeria:

Land Cost:                      NGN 100,000 per plot (depends on the location)

Land Preparation:           NGN 25,000

Cassava Stem Cuttings: NGN 50,000 for 100 bundles.

Fertilizer:                         NGN 25,000 (depending on the quantity)

Fermentation Tank:        NGN 220,000

Hydraulic Press:             NGN 280,000

Hammer Mill:                  NGN 700,000

TOTAL:                               NGN 1,400,000

Weeding is an important part of cultivation. You can use post-emergence herbicides to control weeds immediately they are spotted on your cassava farm. You can also use pre-emergence herbicides before planting in order to control weeds. If your farm is small-scale, you can use hoes or cutlasses to clear out weeds. But for larger farms, you can use tractor operated weeders.

In addition, land preparation needs to be done properly to control the weeds at least for the first 3 months to achieve optimum yield.

Generally, the type and quantity of fertilizer to use are based on the variety and nature of the soil. The fertilizers should be applied 8 weeks after planting and done 6cm in width and 10cm from the stems or leaves of the cassava plant. In addition, it is advisable to conduct a soil test to determine the type of fertilizer to apply. You can apply fertilizer 4-8 weeks after planting in the ratio determined from the soil test and 16 weeks after planting.

Step 5: Harvesting

It takes cassava between 8 to 12 months to mature after planting. You can harvest manually by hand which is done by raising the lower part of the stem and pulling the roots out of the ground. Then you cut off the stem of the cassava plant leaving a small portion of the stem at the base of the plant to serve as a handle to pull the cassava root off the ground. In this case, the stems can be kept for reuse in the next planting season or sold to other cassava farmers. On the other hand, the leaves can serve as animal feed.

Generally, cassava is not as labor intensive as other staple crops like maize, yam, and rice when it is time for harvest. However, post-harvest labor requires a lot of work because the roots are highly perishable and must be processed into a storable form immediately after harvest. The roots are usually harvested between six months and three years after planting.

Step 6: Processing

Cassava contains cyanide that can make the crop toxic if inadequately processed. This is why it is necessary that the harvested cassava is properly processed using methods such as grating, sun drying, and fermenting which are used to reduce the cyanide content.

Step 7: Market your cassava products

Marketing is an important aspect because it is the reward for all your hard work on the farm. It is important that you identify the right marketing channels even before harvest to ensure a seamless transition of your crop from the farm to the market.

Wrapping up

Apart from its numerous benefits, cassava farming comes with various constraints. One of the major challenges with cassava farming is finance. Usually, the cost of purchasing the land, acquiring farming equipment and the cost of labor usually deters prospective farming. However, there are opportunities for funding that can help you start your business. Also, the scarcity of good variety of cassava stem to plant is another challenge. Nonetheless, there are ways to find the right variety for your farming needs.

Overall, the incidence of pest and disease can also affect the cassava yield on your farm. The major pests of cassava in Nigeria are the cassava green mite and the grasshopper while the main diseases affecting the plant are the cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava bacterial blight, cassava anthracnose disease, and root rot. Often times, a combination of pests, disease and poor cultivation practices have led to yield losses as high as 50% in sub-Saharan Africa.

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