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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

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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Thousands of Africans Fatally Affected Due To Fake Drugs

In Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies.

Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Africa.

The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.

“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said. Within days he was hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods. Pixabay

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.

“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.

Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.

Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.

For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.

“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.

Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.

Misuse of antibiotic drugs have lead to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, Pixabay

That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.

Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tonnes of fake medicine over the past two years.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.

“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.

Also Read: Trump Presents Proposal To Lower the Price of Specific Drugs

But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.

“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan. (VOA)