Upon the joint request of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Congo, and facilitated by the Regional Centre of Excellence against Hunger and Malnutrition (CERFAM) in Côte d'Ivoire, experts and technicians from Côte d’Ivoire and Benin are working with national and local entities of the Republic of the Congo to increase the performance of the agricultural sector, improve the value chain of cassava, and increase the productivity of farmers whose sources of income could be diversified in a very near future. The experts and beneficiaries collaborate by sharing resources and techniques. Since November 2019, the beginning of the project, this has helped introduce new technologies, exchange good practices, and share knowledge and experience in some fields such as the manufacture of machines (equipment and tools to boost production of good quality gari and attieké) and the processing of cassava.
This South-South cooperation initiative between the Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin aims at empowering rural communities, especially women and young men, to benefit equally from agri-food including the processing of cassava. This is achieved by strengthening their capacities and skills to diversify and improve their food systems, vary their sources of income, and improve the quality of food produced with the use of local agricultural raw materials in their regions with the manufactured equipment and tools. The technical assistance assembled experts from the Ministries of Agriculture of Côte d’Ivoire and Benin, the Institute of Technology in Côte d’Ivoire and CERFAM, which is the first Centre of Excellence in Africa. This is the result of a partnership between the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and WFP to support countries in their national efforts to develop and implement sustainable policies and programmes to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 (Zero hunger) and combat all forms of malnutrition in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The initiative’s approach includes a strong human capacity development component, which ensures the assimilation and a long-term sustainability of new and innovative techniques and expertise, guaranteeing adequate food security and nutrition, as well as the availability of financial resources. The technical support consisted of three parts: (i) an analysis on the needs of local populations and the situation of local production; (ii) training on the production of cassava processing machines; and (iii) training in cassava processing into gari and attiéké. After this mission, the target groups were able to capitalize on the learned technique and acquired technology to process cassava, improving their food and nutrition security, increasing their income and promoting rural development.
After discussions with the Minister of Agriculture and local stakeholders, the assessment mission was able to capture the key and immediate needs of the target population and develop adequate and locally based solutions for improving the cassava value chain. The experts observed field demonstrations of the local production of gari, specifically the type of machine used and how it was operated. This resulted in an in-depth understanding of the local production methods, challenges, and how, with a very simple adjustment in the machines, they could impact farmers’ lives and relieve their workload. These exchanges contributed to better tailoring of the training, which respects context and adapts the equipment to local constraints, such as type of fuel and materials available.
After the analysis, the first phase of training was to teach the production of more modern machine for cassava processing. Twenty-six technicians from the local areas learned theoretical knowledge about the different parts of equipment and applied it by producing a line of cassava processing machines with the experts’ assistance. At the end of the training, seven machines were produced to create lines of production for cassava-derived products. The second training aimed to train members from different farmer organizations to process cassava with the newly introduced equipment. In theoretical sessions, participants learned about the specific procedure to produce gari, which has been consumed in Congo since the 1970s. Attiéké, which is very popular cassava-derived product in Côte d’Ivoire, was also introduced to the participants in the training. Following the theoretical session, the participants tested the new machines and produced 40 kg of gari and 32 kg of attiéké of high quality.
The participatory approach is a key component of sustainability of the initiative by involving the local government and community in designing the assistance initiative, which can respond better to the needs of local population with context-related solutions. The African-to-African learning and exchange played a crucial role to focus on the step by step of implementation and concrete actions to achieve the goals of the collaboration. Côte d’Ivoire and Benin have faced these challenges and knew the path to overcome them, but needed to interact with Congolese stakeholders to understand the context of their support and shape it accordingly.
This initiative encourages knowledge and technology sharing to improve the cassava value chain. It also promotes contacts and networking among experts and authorities in the agricultural sector, exploring further opportunities to work together in the future. The proposed solutions could be adapted further, since the neighbouring countries experience similar challenges and share similar cultures. Such activities could be replicated in the sub-region, as cassava is largely consumed there, by adapting to the local context and constraints (e.g. the availability of raw materials for equipment production and of electricity).