July 26, 2018 | By Emmanuel Donkor

Next Generation 2018 - Integrating Smallholder Farmers into the Cassava Food Value Chain: A Strategic Tool for Rural Development in Nigeria

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to present the 2018 Next Generation Delegates blog series. This year’s Delegation was comprised of 27 outstanding students from universities across the United States and around the world studying agriculture, food, and related disciplines. We were thrilled to feature these emerging leaders at the Global Food Security Symposium 2018, and look forward to sharing the exciting work of this extraordinary group.

There is a global recognition of the economic potential of cassava to stimulate economic growth and development in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Currently, Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world. Cassava is among the crops that have been targeted by the national policy agenda to achieve economic diversification through agrifood value chain development and industrialisation in hopes of attaining sustainable economic development.

The cassava sector is enticing for a plethora of reasons including its employment opportunities, notably for poor farmers, and for its ability to produce both valuable semi processed and processed materials. The semi-processed industrial raw materials such as starch, sweeteners, high-quality flour, ethanol, and biofuel are processed from raw cassava tubers. These semi-processed raw materials are used by manufacturing industries across the continent including Nigeria. Processed food products, namely gari, fufu, lafun, tapioca, cake, bread, fritters, and croquette, are derived from cassava. The supply of these processed cassava food products can help many people in Nigeria and the diaspora to improve their nutritional and food security. These many benefits show the market potentials and business opportunities in the cassava sector in Nigeria.

The evidence further suggests that developing the cassava food value chain in Nigeria can create more jobs for the youth. However, these economic opportunities have not yet been fully explored to attract the youth in the sector. It is against this background that I conducted a study to investigate how small and medium-scale producers can be effectively integrated into the cassava food value chain in Nigeria. The study is aligned with some key goals that were discussed in the recent Global Food Security Symposium. Many of the speakers echoed the need to develop the agrifood value chain as a means to encouraging the youth and promoting economic development in developing countries.

My study showed, that among other things, smallholder cassava producers had limited marketing options. The smallholder producers sold their raw cassava output either directly to processors or middlemen who in turn sold to processors. Processors transformed the raw cassava tubers into traditional food products) and semi processed raw materials. It was observed that taking into consideration the transaction costs, it was more profitable for the farmers to diversify between the two marketing channels. Moreover, human capital factors, institutional access to extension services and membership of farmer associations, transactional access to market information, and individual assets were the key determinants of the producers’ choices of marketing channels.

Another finding was that the farmers were less involved in value-adding activities. Many farmers sold their raw cassava tubers without any value addition. Therefore, they tended to generate low-profit margin from the farm business.. It was concluded that the farmers who processed some of their raw cassava tubers into either traditional or improved food products generated a higher profit margin than those who sold all their raw cassava tubers. Based on these findings, I recommend that for an effective integration of smallholder farmers into the cassava food value chain, it is necessary to improve their access to direct marketing opportunities as well as enhancing their value-adding capacities. This will, in turn, make the attainment of the SDGs of zero hunger, poverty reduction, and improved welfare a reality in Nigeria.



The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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