The Federation of National Associations of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM) has identified disease-free cassava cuttings to provide women farmers in the COMESA region.
TASU Seeds produced by a Malawian company are expected to address the challenges in the production of disease-free cassava that make it difficult to promote seed multiplication. In addition, it will bridge the relationship gaps that exist between the private sector and research institutions in addressing issues facing the cassava farmers. FEMCOM, a COMESA institution has been focusing on disease-free cassava seed multiplication and distribution, and increasing market access for small and medium enterprises under the COMESA cassava cluster programme.
This vision is in line with COMESA’s cluster development programme whose ultimate goal is to put the private sector at the center of development with the aim to contribute towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty reduction.
In Malawi, cassava production has continued to receive greater attention not only as a subsistence crop but also as a cash earner as more products and use are being discovered. The COMESA cassava cluster development programme, which has been successfully piloted in six Member States, has made it possible for farmers to realize the benefits from the crop through the provision of business management skills and cassava processing training.
The training on processing includes production of high quality cassava flour and cassava starch, which is used for various products in the paper, wood, glue, textile, brewery and bakery industries.
“Our out-growers, who are mainly women, are empowered to produce certified and basic seed, which we then purchase at fair prices that reflect market conditions at the time of purchase,” said Susan Banda, Business Development Manager.
This certified seed multiplication initiative has products ranging from legumes and oil seeds, cereals, tubers, spices, fruits and vegetables to seedlings for various indigenous trees. TASU Seeds, a Lilongwe-based company owned by two Malawian women entrepreneurs, has expanded its market to Zimbabwe, in response to the increasing demand for Malawian produced agricultural commodities. The company recently participated in the first ever Malawi Investment Forum.