Did you know that when it comes to Cassava farming in Nigeria, many people are not informed about its great profitability?
Cassava is a vegetable that is a staple ingredient of many diets worldwide.
It is the underground part of the cassava shrub, which has the Latin name Manihot esculenta. Like potatoes and yams, it is a tuber crop.
Cassava roots have a similar shape to sweet potatoes. It is a good source of nutrients. However, it should not be eaten raw because raw cassava contains cyanide, which is toxic to ingest, so it is vital to prepare it correctly.
In the United States, people grind cassava down to make tapioca, which they eat as a pudding or use as a thickening agent.
In one of our recent posts, we’ve written about grasscutter farming, you should check them out.
Before I proceed into the details of cassava farming, let us have a quick look into the history of cassava and what cassava is all about.
What Is Cassava?
Before we talk about cassava farming in Nigeria, you should know what cassavas are exactly.
Cassava is commonly called Yuca in Spanish America and it is a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae.
Cassava originated in Brazil and Paraguay, and it was however introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the 16th century.
Meanwhile, many other nations are learning how to grow cassavas now.
Although it is a perennial plant, cassava can be extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root.
These contain 30 percent starch and are high in carbohydrates
Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils.
Cassava is classified as either sweet or bitter.
Like other roots and tubers, both bitter and sweet varieties of cassava contain anti-nutritional factors and toxins, with the bitter varieties containing much larger amounts.
Farmers often prefer bitter varieties because they deter pests, animals, and thieves.
Did you know that Nigeria is ranked the first position as the world’s largest producer of cassava? This is followed by Thailand, Brazil, and Indonesia. Thailand is the largest exporter of cassava starch.
Cassava Farming In Nigeria
Many households in Nigeria now plants cassava at their backyards or an available piece of land for the consumption of the family.
However, some have the ability to produce more than what the family needs and therefore can venture into commercial cassava farming.
Commercial cassava farming in Nigeria has been a very profitable farming venture for farmers in the country.
A cassava tuber which is in very high demand is the raw material for producing ‘garri’ which is a staple food for Nigerians.
Cassava farming venture is known for its low input and high output nature. Many industries in Nigeria use cassava as a major raw material so you don’t have any trouble selling your products.
Cassava farming in Nigeria has increased tremendously over the years, with the increasing use of cassava products not only as food items (garri, fufu, amala, bread, abacha), but for the production of some highly needed products.
It can be cultivated in any part of the county so far as there is adequate rainfall and sunshine.
Nigeria is so favored by nature and consequently, being in the vantage position, happens to be at the forefront in cassava farming in Africa.
Cassava farming is one of the easiest things a farmer can do since it only involves the burying of the stems in the soil, whether you make ridges or not and in less than 10 months, you are already harvesting.
Cassava as a major food item in Nigeria has some health benefits too. That could be the reason why its production has increased.
Reasons You Should Start a Cassava Farm
Cassava is one of the easiest crops to cultivate as it does not require sophisticated environmental conditions.
There are a whole lot of benefits from planting and consuming cassava, and that will inform you why you should seriously consider venturing into cassava farming in Nigeria.
They include the following:
- Cassava belongs to the class of drought-tolerant crops that provides reasonable yields where most crops cannot grow well. It can survive poor soils and less rainfall, thus act as a reserve in times of famine.
- Also due to its hardy nature, cassava does not require irrigation facilities as it can adapt and tolerate adverse weather conditions. It tolerates long dry seasons (6 to 7 months) as well as reduced rainfall.
- Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize
- Cultivating cassava plants can be a steady source of income since a large number of people depend on it.
- Cassava is very good at weed control because ones the plant is around 6-7 weeks, it already forms canopy with its leaves, therefore, considerably reducing the cost of weeding and herbicide application.
- Cassava plays a major role in Agriculture in developing countries because of its ability to grow in almost any weather. Hence, its economic value rarely diminishes.
- It can serve as a subsistence or cash crop, which makes it very flexible for small-scale farmers.
- Cassava can be processed and made into different products such as Tapioca, Garri, Alcoholic Beverages, Bread, Fufu, Cakes, Cassava chips, French fries, Cookies, Can be boiled and eaten.
Cassava tubers are a raw material for:
When it comes to cassava farming in Nigeria, this gift of nature is used in noodles production industries, Alcohol and liquor production industries, Garri Factories, Cassava flour factories, Fufu producers and more.
It is also used for making medications, fabrics, paper, and building materials, such as plywood.
Researchers are also hoping that cassava could be a source of the alcohol that manufacturers use to make polystyrene, PVC, and other industrial products.
The cassava plant is a major source of carbs, calories, vitamins, minerals and smaller amounts of fats and protein. In addition, it is also a good source of energy.
In countries like China, Cassava serves as a major source of ethanol fuel production.
As a result, cassava (tapioca) chips have gradually become a major source of ethanol production. In Nigeria also, research institutes are looking into the production of fuel from cassava.
Cassava can also be grated and dried to serve as animal feed as well as starch for laundry products.
Large Market or Buyer-base. Many industries in Nigeria use cassava as a major raw material so you don’t have any trouble selling your products.
Low input of time and resources is also one of the benefits of starting a cassava farming in Nigeria.
Important Points to Note for Profitable Cassava Farming
- When selecting cuttings, the best varieties of cassava to plant are those that are rich in dry matter, which is well adapted to the production area. These varieties produce tubers early and are easy to process.
- Cassava cuttings are usually collected in the field during harvesting. Improved varieties may also be obtained from research institutes or appropriate development organizations.
- Cuttings of 20 to 30 cm long from the central portions of the brown healthy stems at around 8-12 months old are considered and preferred to be planted.
- Healthy crops can be identified by their strong stems and branches, lush foliage, stems and leaves showing little damage from diseases or pests.
- To ensure reasonable yield and uniform growth, it is advisable that the stems should be harvested at about a week before setting and store them in the shade, in a well-ventilated area.
- The cuttings should be taken at the time of planting or on the day before. Each cutting should have 5–7 dormant buds. Fertilization or application of manure is not necessary on a virgin or long-term fallow land.
How to Grow Cassavas
Growing cassava successfully relies upon tropical climates and at least eight months of warm weather.
The plant prefers well-drained soil and modest rainfall, but it can survive where soils are wet. Cassava roots do not tolerate freezing temperatures and the best growth is in full sun.
Growing cassava from start to harvest can take up to 12 months. The plants are started from propagules made from parts of mature stems.
These are 8 to 12 cm cuttings with several bud nodes along the length. Lay the cutting on prepared soil.
Quick Tips on How to Start and Grow Cassava In Nigeria
The following are steps involved in growing cassava plant from selecting the suitable land for planting, to the final stage of processing the crop for edible or non-edible purposes.
Choose a Suitable Site
The first step before planting your cassava plant is to select suitable and fertile soil. If it is at all possible, conduct a feasibility study, particularly for commercial cassava farming.
The type of land to look out for is one with good soil texture, preferably loamy soils with good drainage, adequate rainfall, and sunshine in the area.
Do not plant in lands with steep slopes, valleys, and depression areas to avoid flooding issues. Also, avoid sites that are prone to pest invasion.
2. Prepare the Soil For Planting
You must apply herbicide (an agent used to destroy or stop plant growth) about ten days before land preparation.
Planting on ridges is always recommended, so mechanized planting methods can be employed or the use of manual labor in the case of the small and medium-scale farmers.
During land preparation, it is recommended to apply the appropriate quantity of quicklime.
Make sure the land is cleared and tilled properly before planting starts.
Tilling would help loosen up the soil drainage and encourage the healthier development of the cassava root.
During tilling, dried manure from animals can be added and mixed with the soil to increase its fertility, especially if the land has been used for prolonging and continuous farming.
The ridges or mounds for planting should be constructed, spacing and population is also determined by how the planting wants to be done; either solely or planted alongside other crops such as legumes, maize, vegetables, etc.
3. Choose the Variety of Cassava Stem to be Used
To get a good harvest, you would need to select the best cassava variety to plant.
There are various varieties of cassava different in their tuber yields and the ability to withstand pests and diseases.
You must consider the following factors before you make your selection on the suitable cassava stems to be used.
- Stems that are appropriate for the soil
- Stems that produce good food quality
- Stems that yield cassava and are resistant to pests
- Stems that have the ability to grow fast
- Stems that have high starchy content
4. Decide When to Plant, and Plant
Usually, the planting season is around April and extends to September/October. You must weed the grass that grows with the cassava stem as when it is appropriate to do so. This helps the cassava stems grow in a healthy manner.
Also, planting is done either early in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is cool to prevent excessive heat on the crops.
Cassava planting can be combined with other crops to improve agricultural profitability and soil quality.
Because of the nutrients, they release into the soil, legume species such as cowpea, beans, and groundnut are particularly suitable. Cassava can also be planted alongside maize.
There are three methods of planting cassava:
- Horizontal Planting: The plants are placed 5-10 cm deep into the soil in dry climates.
- Vertical Planting: Cassava cuttings are planted vertically to avoid rot, especially during the rainy season.
- Inclined Planting: Here, cuttings are inclined at 45 degrees and planted leaving 2-3 nodes above the ground. This is practiced in areas with the least rainfall.
Whichever methods you use, I will advise you to take note of the position of the knots.
The stems should be planted with the knots pointing upwards. Positioning the knots upside down reduces the yield.
5. Controlling Weeds
To weed, apply post-emergence herbicides to control weeds immediately they are spotted on your cassava farm.
As noted above, Pre-emergence herbicides should have been applied before planting to control weeds.
For small-scale farms, use hoes or cutlasses to clear out weeds and tractor operated weeders for larger farms.
The type and quantity of fertilizer to use are based on the varieties and nature of the soil. As mentioned earlier a virgin land will not need fertilization.
Fertilizers should be applied 4 – 8 weeks after planting and done 4 cm in width and 8 cm from the stems or leaves of the cassava plant. Also, a soil test can be carried out to determine the type of fertilizer to apply.
Cassava matures between 8 to 12 months after planting.
The sign that the cassava is due for harvesting is when the leaves turn yellow in color and falling off from the stem.
The dry season is the best time to harvest cassava because the tubers are rich in starch at that time, drying is easy and the products can be easily processed and preserved.
Harvesting manually by hand is done by raising the lower part of the stem and pulling the roots out of the ground, making sure not to damage them.
The stem of the cassava plant is cut off 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.
Here, the stems are kept for reuse in the next planting season or sold to other cassava farmers.
One of the advantages of cassava farming is that the stems are used for planting and not the roots, unlike yam, beans, maize, groundnut, etc. The leaves can also serve as animal feed.
The process involved after harvesting is based on what it would be used for. For example, the following are different ways of processing cassava roots:
Garri processing: This is a very profitable business in Nigeria. The majority of families in the east, west, middle belt and some part in the north consume garri every day.
The process involved in making garri includes: Peeling, grinding, Fermentation, Dewatering the fermented cassava, Drying, sieving, frying.
Fufu production: Here you put the cassava roots in a container full of water and allow a period of four days within which the root would have been fermented.
The fermented cassava roots are now separated from the chaff, using a sieve. Excess water is then removed. The cassava is now ready for cooking.
You can also process Starch, Abacha and Cassava flour
Concluding Notes on Cassava Farming In Nigeria
Cassava planting and harvesting need coordination, prudent management of resources and doing things at the right time.
You should not overlook the diseases that can attack your cassava crops at any time before harvesting and control or prevent them.
They include; root rot disease, (this disease causes the cassava roots to decay), as well as anthracnose and mosaic diseases.
The need for a budget cannot be overemphasized. It gives you the picture of the overall cost to be incurred before the cassava planting, during and the harvesting, as well as the potential revenue you are going to earn.
So plan your budget well. This will include the cost of all the guides and steps listed above on how to start and grow cassava in Nigeria.
A cassava farmer will never have a problem selling his products quickly and profitably. Therefore, a reasonable amount of profit is often achieved. Commercial cassava farming is worth it.
Considering the ease of cultivating cassava, reduced inputs, the hardiness of the cassava plant, and also its high market demand, cassava farming is conclusively one of the most lucrative agribusinesses for all and sundry.
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