NRI Cassava Programme

NRI and its partners are at the forefront of strategic and adaptive research to enable smallholder farmers to access growth markets to ensure that cassava can be a pro-poor vehicle for economic development. Early funding was from the Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union Framework Programme.

With more recent funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) phase one, phase two of C:AVA led by the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria and research inputs from the European Union Cassava Growth Markets project ( this has enabled implementation of a major multi-country programme of work that has to-date directly benefited an estimated 90,000 smallholder households in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda. This was in collaboration with partners in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and India.

Research to support value addition
NRI and its partners have undertaken research funded by the UK Department for International Development on the intrinsic properties of cassava and its transformation to make safe, cheap and valued products that bring value to farmers and others in the supply chain. One of the main constraints to cassava commercialisation is the presence of naturally occurring cyanide-containing compounds, which pose health problems if not reduced in concentration. NRI and partners developed analytical methods to measure cyanogenic compounds, enabling the mechanisms by which cyanogenic compounds are broken down during processing to be elucidated. It was found that tissue disruption by grating, soaking or fermentation was key to ensuring safety. This has paved the way for adaptive research to develop processing systems that produced safe products. Mycotoxin formation was also found to be a problem in traditional cassava products, which led to research on the development of drying regimes that prevented mould growth and consequent mycotoxin production, which in turn led to improved product quality and ensured consumers’ health.

The development of techniques to ensure safe products is crucial in strategic and adaptive research. A specific focus is on research to develop improved processing technologies to produce High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), which can be used as a substitute for imported wheat flour. Adaptive research, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( was undertaken to understand and optimise the use of HQCF in paperboard, plywood adhesives, sugar syrups and other food uses. Improved versions of traditional cassava products were developed; for example, a dehydrated 'instant' version of fufu was developed in Nigeria. Fufu is a sticky dough made from fermented cassava and is usually served as an accompaniment to soups and stews. The European Commission funded Cassava Growth Markets ( is supporting the technical research to understand the market potential of these derived cassava products in a range of countries.

Translating research into benefit for smallholder farmers
These research outputs have enabled a pan-African programme (Cassava: Adding Value for Africa) to develop smallholder-supplied HQCF and related product value chains. This was implemented with over 400 organisations and has created sustainable value chains that have generated social, economic and policy benefits, with significant reach and depth of impact, especially benefitting women and other disadvantaged groups.

Highlights of value addition programme include value chains for HQCF and related products established in Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Features of these value chains include that:

a) in excess of 66,777 tonnes of HQCF produced by 2014,
b) an estimated 90,000 smallholder farmers benefitted,
c) 51 small- and medium-scale enterprises, three associations and over 300 village processing and farmer groups supported to process HQCF (these include six factories in Ghana; seven companies in Malawi; 25 factories in Nigeria; over 40 community processing groups and three enterprises in Tanzania and three associations in Uganda),
d) local engineering companies in partnership with NRI and other collaborators have developed improved processing equipment in Nigeria (drying efficiency increased by 80%, and throughput by 320%),
e) promoted the development of improved forms of traditional food products, such as instant fufu as a commercial product in Ghana and Nigeria, produced by companies such as Sunshine Foods, Ayoola Food and Ubest Industries; and
f) supported commercial companies to adopt HQCF.

The impact of the project activities and outputs on women is summarised in the diagram below together with some specific impacts at individual and group levels.

Impacts of the value addition work on women

Taking the value addition programme forward
Based on the above work and the success achieved by the first programme funded by the BMGF (Cassava: Adding Value for Africa), a second phase (Cassava: Adding Value for Africa Phase II led by the Federal University for Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria and supported by NRI seeks to benefit a further 250,000 smallholders in Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.