Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cassava Flour in Chisemphere

After three weeks in the field, I am back at the IITA office frantically trying to catch up on emails, reports, and blogging. I know I’ve fallen a little behind on posting but I have plenty of stories from the field and will do my best to write about them while I am back. Thank you to everyone who participated in the Chichewa word quiz while I was away. For those of you who guessed Ntochi, you’re right! Now you can purchase bananas without difficulty throughout the country.

I have been working with cassava flour production at a small factory in the town of Chisemphere, about three hours north of Lilongwe. Currently, market demand for cassava flour is strong for a number of reasons: it can be used as a partial substitute for wheat flour in baked goods - making it more economical with the rise in wheat prices – and it can be used as a maize substitute in nsima, the staple dish in Malawi. Despite this market, the number of processors remains few. To my knowledge there are only two cassava flour producers in Malawi at this time, one being Mafayo Lungu in Chisemphere.

The potential positive effects of flour production are. Mafayo’s factory can provide employment in the community, a local market where farmers can sell cassava, a supply of food in the hunger season, and a means of eventually sending his one-year-old daughter Lusungu to school. However, despite the positive environment, Mafayo’s business still faces many challenges. My work over the next few months will be focused on supporting his business to become profitable and self-sufficient in the long term. If we can achieve this, there is potential for further market growth leading to increased incomes and food security in rural Malawi.

There are many opportunities for supporting the value chain. Fortunately, I working directly with Graham Lettner, an EWB long-term volunteer here until March, so any initiatives can continue after my placement ends. The cassava harvest will begin in earnest next month and so ideas and preparations are in full swing. Yehbo!

1 comment:

Kirk Longstein said...

Muli Bwanji? ineso ndili bwino.

My name is Kirk and Im a return Peace Corps Volunteer from Malawi. I served from 2008-2010. I came across your blog while following up on some of my past projects. I became very involved in organizing farmers and working to establish markets for starch production/sales while living in Nkhotakota. There is so much potential for this market both globally and locally for Malawian in the village and in towns. It would be great to see local empowerment of this business idea. I would love to hear more about your capacity working with these projects and how the evolution of this market is progressing.
email direct if possable at Klongstein@gmail.com
best of luck in your projects and your adventures

Osiwala Kuti,Chitikuko Chimandilira pa kulimba mitima kwa antu

Zikomo Kwambiri
Kirk RPCV Malawi