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In Sierra Leone, No More Overdependence On Imported Wheat FlourÖ
By Aruna Turay
Jun 16, 2009, 17:26
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In Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Trade and Industry indicates that over 20 million US dollars of wheat flour is imported annually into the country for use in producing bread and confectionary products.

Cassava recipe book for product development

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has partnered with USAID to help end that overdependence on the imported food ingredient. Previous research for development activities by IITA in other African countries had demonstrated wheat import substitution by High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) at up to 10% in bread and 100% for confectionary products, for example. That was part of the thrust of the just ended 4 days intensive hands-on Training of Trainers workshop on "Cassava Processing, Product Development and Utilization" organized by IITA with USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Bo, 9 to 12 June, through the multi-country project ĎUnleashing the Power of Cassava in response to food Price Crisis in Africaí (UPoCA).

Demonstrating a screw press

UPoCA project covers seven countries in Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. The project is managed from the recently established IITA office in Sierra Leone. At the opening ceremony of the training, Dr. Braima James, IITA Regional Manager of UPoCA project, informed the audience that through experiential learning, resource persons from IITA-Nigeria, University of Agriculture Abeokuta in Nigeria, and Sierra Leoneís Njala University will emphasize hands-on training enabling participants to later empower producer groups, agro processors and entrepreneurs with technical knowledge and skills required to provide adequate supplies of cassava food and industrial products.

Grating cassava roots into marsh

The training was officially opened by Hon. Lovell Thomas, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security. He assured IITA and USAID of his Ministryís fullest support to IITA and UPoCA project. The Minister urged participants to see themselves as field ambassadors to help stabilize food prices through routine application of the scientific knowledge and skills they will acquire in the training. The 29 participants (45% of them women) were nominated by 10 UPoCA partner organizations across the country: MAFFS/OFTN, SLARI, CRS, FORUT, 3 Growth Centres (at Binkolo in Bombali District, Pujehun in Pujehun District and Kpandebu in Kenema District), World Vision International, Magbeyani Womenís Association, GDFCI/NETWEPs with SIMDA, District and City Councils and RiU-Sierra Leone.

Hands on milling for cassava flour

Dr. Bussie Maziya-Dixon, IITA Crop Utilization Scientist and lead resource person, guided technical sessions that enabled participants to fully understand and practice value addition to boost the nutritional quality of cassava for food whilst stressing income generating and industrial opportunities offered by cassava products. Participants worked in three groups. In terms of training outputs, the 29 participants were trained in "trouble shooting"/fault-finding and using locally available processing equipment to produce a wide range of cassava products.

Participanst group picture

During the 4-days training, participants were able to produce four primary products from cassava storage roots: High Quality Cassava Flour, Soya-fortified gari, fermented cassava flour (for fufu), and Starch. Additionally, participants used IITA cassava recipes booklet to produce seven secondary products by fortifying High Quality Cassava Flour with a range of locally available animal and plant protein sources. No imported wheat flour was used in any of the products.

Peeling cassava roots

These food products stand to impact positively on household and national food security. The food products developed from High Quality Cassava Flour were croquette (christened "CAFICO" by the participants), cocktail tidbits (christened "teeth-bites"); doughnuts, chin-Chin, complementary food (baby food), cassava fritters, and cassava egg roll. Participants also made Tapioca from the high quality starch they had produced.

Pics from camera in BVO 396

Hands-on learning was highly praised by the group. At the end of the training, Mrs. Agnes Minah a participant from MAFFS/OFTN Pujehun district said "I benefited most from the hands-on training approach due to three key features: seeing/observing, reading and practicing. With my "finger prints" all over the products I produced it will be difficult for me to forget what I have learnt, especially the skills to make high quality cassava flour and fufu flour. I never knew cassava had so many uses but now I clearly understand why IITA chose the project title unleashing the power of cassavaÖ"

Samples of primary products by participants

Dr. James stressed that the training was not an event but an integral part of national development processes to promote rural and urban economic growth through community capacity for self supply of food ingredients. The course on processing, product development and utilization was the first of three inter-related hands-on training being delivered this month by IITA/USAID project UPoCA at the Friendship House in Bo.

Samples of secondary products by participants

The second course will be on "Packaging and Labeling Cassava Products for Markets" 15 to 17 June (lead resource person is from the Ghana Institute of Packaging), to be followed by the third course "Business Planning and Management for Cassava Enterprises" (lead resource person is from IITA-Nigeria). The 10 UPoCA partner organizations will each participate in these courses within the framework of IITAís long term aim to strengthen and build the nationís technical capacity in agricultural research for development.

Two participants on cassava pride

Complementary activities by the UPoCA project include large scale distribution of improved cassava varieties that had been released by SLARI, market studies to fully understand and advice on cassava enterprises, and linking fragmented actors into viable cassava value chains. Resource persons guided participants to develop short-term action plans ensuring that they will apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills by training a wider range of beneficiaries in the Districts where they operate. In his closing remarks, the Deputy Mayor of Bo City Mr. Joe Payne, stressed that it will be through outcomes realized by post-course activities that the impact of the training will be truly felt. The country-wide spread of the participantsí operational zones will promote the training concept of "each productÖsame quality" in all parts of the country.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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