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African Agricultural Officials converge on Cameroon to map out ways of processing the Continent’s enormous Food Resources

Nigeria, an example of success for other African countries, produces about 20 percent of the world's cassava

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Women work in a cassava grinding mill in Nigeria, Nov. 19, 2009. - VOA

: African agricultural officials have converged on Cameroon to map out ways of processing the continent’s enormous food resources. Instead of exporting the raw products to Europe, they have chosen this way.

The international trade fair on agriculture and agro industries is focusing on the cassava crop, hoping to add value to the more than 200 million tons of the starchy tuber Africa produces each year.

Processing key

As 300 women – members of the Akono cassava farmers association – peel, boil, steam, slice, pound, roast and ferment cassava roots and leaves, Farmer Nteme Florence says the processing makes cassava usable in many ways.

She says besides consuming cassava leaves as vegetables and cassava roots as a basic food, the women transform it into starch, whisky, beer, flour gari (toasted granules), chips, and many other products. She says they use cassava skin as animal feed.

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Cassava production cooperative president Marie Joseph Ndzana Fouda says they use traditional methods to process the tuber because they lack modern equipment.

She says they also have been longing for tractors so they can stop manual work on their farms and increase cassava production, helping themselves and the many people who approach them to learn how to cultivate cassava to supplement their incomes.

Most cassava exported

Most of Africa’s cassava is exported to America, Thailand and Brazil, countries that have high annual consumption of starch products. Japan imports nearly a million tons a year.

DRC agriculture official Stanley Yimngain says it is time for Africa to reduce raw exports and process cassava at home to create jobs.

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“We find that cassava production, if it remains traditional, it will not be able to benefit from the opportunities that are coming up now with processing (and) industrialization,” Yimngain said. “So the forum is trying to bridge the gap between what the industrialist are looking for, what the small scale producers are doing or are producing and how can we meet half way so that the benefits also come to the small holder farmers. We would like to see that agriculture is a business opportunity and not just what our parents used to do.”

Nigeria sets an example

The Central African Republic representative at the forum, Samson Garassi, says African countries lack the technical and financial means to equip rural communities to process cassava.

He says 90 percent of the population of the Central African Republic consume cassava, but average production in the C.A.R. has stagnated since it is difficult to develop the sector and process and export the tuber in the absence of funds. He says the C.A.R. is expecting funding agencies to help them grow from artisanal to industrial production.

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The participants are learning from Nigeria. From 33 million tons in 1999, Nigeria now produces 45 million, about 20 percent of the world production.

Cassava a staple crop

Agriculture engineer Vincent Noble, who coordinates the program to develop French agro industries, says Nigeria and West African countries have greatly increased labor efficiency, incomes and standards of living through cassava farming.

He says the most important thing about the cassava forum is that it provides an opportunity for Africa to learn from the example of West Africa, which has succeeded in industrial transformation to add value to the product and create jobs.

Cassava is one of the most important staple food crops in tropical Africa, playing a major role in efforts to alleviate food shortages because of its availability year round and tolerance to extreme conditions. (VOA)

 

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Thrill of 27th Annual Pan African Festival

One of the main goals of the festival is to create dialogue and education through film and the arts.

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Linus has used the power of the media to bring awareness to child marriage, which affects girls around the world. Pixabay

More than 100 artisans and 170 films from around the world are being showcased at the 27th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles.

The multiday event in the largely African American neighborhood of Baldwin Hills aims to connect Africans to people of African descent from around the world.

“As a result of the slave trade and colonization, African people are spread all over the planet, so we get a chance through this festival, get a chance to know each other,” said the festival’s executive director, Ayuko Babu.

Film, fine art, fashion and jewelry with Africa as inspiration are all featured at the festival.

“I never think of us as African American. I think of us as Africans in America, and in coming from that perspective, the ancestral lineage of art and Africa is beyond belief,” said jewelry artist Henry Baba Osageyfo Colby of Timbuktu Art Colony.

FILE - Nigerian filmmaker and actress Stephanie Okereke Linus poses for a photograph during a ceremony to unveil her as the UNFPA Regional Ambassador for Maternal Health in West and Central Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, March 8, 2017.
Nigerian filmmaker and actress Stephanie Okereke Linus poses for a photograph during a ceremony to unveil her as the UNFPA Regional Ambassador for Maternal Health in West and Central Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, March 8, 2017. VOA

Film festival

Filmmakers from around the world, such as Nigerian director and actress Stephanie Linus, also attended the festival.

“Connecting all of us to film that is especially about us and we can see a reflection of ourselves and tell our stories and get a better understanding about where I’m coming from,” said Linus, who presented her movie, Dry, at the festival.

The film is about child marriage and the devastating effects of the practice. It is a social issue in Nigeria that surprised Linus when she first learned about it while attending college.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, can you believe that we’re living in the same country? We’re having two totally different experiences.’ We in the south (of Nigeria) are able to go to school, have an education, decide what happens to our bodies, and there’s some people up in the north where they don’t even have those choices.”

Linus has used the power of the media to bring awareness to child marriage, which affects girls around the world.

“I’m happy that people have taken proactive action because we screened the movie in Gambia and a month later, the government banned child marriage in Gambia,” Linus said.

Dialogue and education

One of the main goals of the festival is to create dialogue and education through film and the arts.

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“We know there’s profound things happening around the black world, and so this is a way to amplify that make people pay attention,” Babu said.

This year’s festival opened Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 18. (VOA)