KENYA – Kenya is set to host the National Cassava Conference and Exhibition 2023 (NCCE), aimed at enhancing cassava production, productivity, and value addition on October 24-26, 2023, at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi.

Themed ‘Spearheading Innovation and Technology for Cassava Sector’ the trade fair is spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) and Self-Help Africa in collaboration with the European Union and other key development organizations.

Cassava is the fourth most important food crop in the world after maize, wheat, and rice. It is the second most important root crop after the Irish potato grown throughout Kenya.

It is a drought-tolerant crop, providing a basic diet for most rural households to address food insecurity and mitigate poverty.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture data shows that Kenya currently produces 1 million metric tonnes of cassava, most of which is consumed locally, despite the country’s potential to produce more than 3 million metric tonnes annually.

Production is mostly concentrated in a few agricultural ecological zones that include western Kenya 60%, the coast 30%, and the eastern 10% zones of the country.

Jo Ryan, Country Director of Self-Help Africa said that the forthcoming trade fair will aid in creating positive public awareness of cassava’s importance in food and nutrition security and socio-economic development across the country.

On his part, Mithika Linturi, CS Ministry of Agriculture welcomed the move adding that with climate change, desert locusts, bird and armyworms invasion, migratory pests, and emerging new crop diseases wreaking havoc on cereal food crop production, cassava is a superfood.

According to Ryan, enhanced cassava productivity in Kenya will save billions of Kenyan shillings, which are spent annually to import staple food produce especially maize following the diminishing productivity due to climate change.  

The conference will provide a learning platform for local, regional, and international cassava value chain players, where they will showcase and demonstrate their latest technologies, products, and services, as well as examine recent market trends and trade opportunities.

“It will also provide a platform that will facilitate the establishment of linkages that increase investment in the cassava value chain through a combination of government partnerships and private sector engagement,” Ryan noted.

He explained that this would accelerate the development of affordable trading standards, procedures, protocols, and accreditations and identify areas of initial support to cassava actors as well as promote national branding of cassava and cassava products and increase awareness of consumption.

“There is a need for consistent promotion across the country through cassava Forums, Trade Fairs, and exhibitions events, considering its resilience to moisture stress, higher productivity per hectare over cereal crop farming, and importance in food & and nutrition security,” said Ryan.