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Traditional foods like garri, fufu, abacha, as well as cassava flour, are derived from it. It’s also a source of ethanol, laundry starch, and modified starch that’s used in pharmaceutical products. There’s a solid market for cassava and its derivatives in Nigeria, and a growing demand outside of the country for it as well. That’s enough products to inspire you to become a commercial cassava farmer if you’ve been thinking about being one. But how does a person start out with this, especially if they’ve never worked at a farm? We’ll explain the steps below.
Learn From Experienced FarmersA lot of guides will tell you to start by selecting a farm site. Here’s what we advise: don’t set out to grow anything until you’ve learnt how the whole thing works from farmers who have been in the business for long enough. Get in touch with them and ask the right questions. You might know one or a few farmers you could talk to. If you don’t, you can consult a local farmers’ union. They could be willing to help out. Also, don’t neglect the wealth of resources available online. There’s a lot of information about soil types, planting seasons, varieties, best practices, the market for the product, and other useful information you’ll need. Find out about cropping systems, tools you should use, harvesting and storage, and every other thing that a farmer ought to know when starting out with cassava.
Choose A Farm SiteAs we’ve already mentioned, most cassava cultivation takes place in southern Nigeria. This is because the climate in the region suits the crop better. It’s also where the market for the product is. So you’ll want to plant in a state located in the region.
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Your farm will almost certainly be located away from the urban centres, where the biggest markets for cassava and its processed derivatives are. Just be sure to site it somewhere that’s linked to those places by navigable roads. This will keep transportation costs down and ensure a higher profit margin for your produce. Take note of such things as the soil type, land topography (avoid planting on slopes that slant in one direction or depress in any parts), climate and other local conditions. Find out (if you can) what kind of weeds and pests are prevalent in the area, and have it in mind to tackle them with the right remedies. These things will determine the quality of the cassava stems you produce.
Prepare Your Land For PlantingPrepare the land for planting by tilling it. Break up tough patches, and ensure that the soil is loose enough to let water drain through it to nourish the cassava roots when it begins to grow. Add manure to the soil, to improve its nutrient content. Animal dung is the sort of material you can use for this. You can also plough the leaves and stems of leguminous plants (like groundnut and beans) into the soil to boost their fertility. When you’re making the ridges, be sure that they’re no less than 0.75 meters apart.
Plant A Cassava Variety Of Your ChoiceThere are several cassava varieties you can choose from. Select a cassava variety with good food quality, weed and pest tolerance, and the ability to stay in the ground for a long time without getting spoilt. When you’re choosing the stem cuttings you’ll plant, be careful to take them from healthy crops that aren’t infested with pests and diseases. They should be between 20 and 25 cm long. You can either plant them horizontally, about 5-10 cm deep in the soil (if the soil is dry) or plant them vertically if you’re doing so in the rainy season. Another alternative would be to stick them in into the soil in slanting positions at about 45 degrees. Plant the cuttings at the beginning of the rainy season, preferably in April.
Deal With Weeds and PestsWeeds stifle crop growth and yield by taking up the nutrients the crop should get. You can prevent this from happening by uprooting them from the soil on a regular basis (this process is called weeding). You can either apply pre-emergence herbicides to prevent them from growing in the first place or post-emergence herbicides if or when they do emerge. If yours is a smaller farm, you may remove them with a hoe. Pesticides can be applied to kill off insects that might be feeding on your crops.
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Apply FertilizersApply N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) fertilizer to the soil at about 8 weeks after you’ve planted the cuttings. The NPK fertilizer is composed of three elements: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, which should be applied in equal quantities.
Harvest The CassavaYour cassava crops will mature between 8 and 12 months after you planted them. When they do mature, you can harvest them manually, by taking off the upper part of the crop’s stem and pulling the cassava tubers out of the ground with the lower. You could store some of the stems you cut and plant them in the next planting season.
Process Your ProduceThe processing your cassava produce undergoes will depend on what product will be made from it. If it’s garri for instance, the cassava will be peeled, ground, fermented, dried, sieved, and fried until it takes its final form as garri. You could handle the processing yourself, or sell the cassava to garri producers who will do the processing themselves. You may also sell the cassava tubers to market traders who will take it on to their stores and sell them on to final consumers.
How To Market Your ProduceThese are a few tips you could follow to market your farm produce and attract more customers.
- Attend farm-related events
- Talk to market suppliers or cassava sellers
- Ask local businesses for referrals (besides farms)
- Render outstanding service
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