How to start cassava farming in Nigeria: step by step guide

Cassava farming in Nigeria is one of the most popular and common source of livelihood for small-scale farmers. This is so because cassava is been processed into many different forms for local consumption in almost every home in Nigeria.
Cassava is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, it can be successfully grown on marginal soils, and gives reasonable yields where many other crops do not grow well.
With the demand for cassava and its products in Nigeria, cassava farming is getting more lucrative with every passing day. As the population of Nigeria continues to grow, the demand for cassava products will continue to skyrocket, leading to higher revenues been generated by cassava farmers.
Some uses of cassava in Nigeria:
• Garri- cassava is processed by grinding and squeezing out the starchy content. The residue is then left to ferment, thereafter, it is fried into sand like grains.
• Food- some variety of cassava tuber can be cooked and enjoyed with varieties of stews, sometimes it could be pounded. Cassava is associated with toxicity, so not all varieties of cassava can be eaten.
• Fufu/Akpu- cassava tuber is soaked in water for four to five days to get it softened, then the chaff is manually removed, it is then cooked.
• Amala- this is most common among the Yoruba’s. Cassava tuber is cut into pieces, soaked for two to three days, dried and grind into flour.
• Starch- this is usually a by-product in the garri process
• Abacha- this is popular among the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. Cassava tubers are boiled, the back peeled off and cut into tiny piece and soaked overnight to get the starch out.
• Cassava Bread- cassava is now processed into flour for baking.
• Animal feed- cassava peel and Cassava hay are used in feeding ruminant animals.
To start cassava farming in Nigeria, there are few things to put in place. This include:
Site selection
In site selection, it is always preferable to select lands with deep loamy soils. Loamy soil type has moderate water infiltration and retention abilities good for growth.
Also, select an area with flat or gently sloping land. Avoid steep slopes, valleys, and depression areas because they are easily eroded, and gets waterlogged quickly and do not allow cassava roots to develop well.
Land preparation
This is done to provide the necessary soil conditions which will enhance the successful establishment of the cassava roots.
A total herbicide like glyphosate can be applied to the farmland ten days before planting to control pre-emergence weeds.

Select the cassava variety to plant

The yield of the cassava depends on the variety selected. So to ensure maximum yield select the best varieties considering the following:
• Varieties that are tolerant to pests, diseases, and weed
• Varieties that are accepted by the target market
• Varieties that mature fast and has high yield
• Varieties that have a lot of dry matter and good food quality
• Varieties that have a ground storage capacity i.e. tubers that don’t get spoilt or decay till harvest time.
Plant spacing
Cassava is planted with a spacing of 1m×1m
Cassava stems are usually used to grow cassava, select healthy stem and reduced to 25cm and each stem should have about 6 nodes for quick sprouting.
Cassava planting usually starts in April and can extend to October. Plant cassava at the right time to ensure healthy sprouting and good crop establishment. Dry season planting is not recommended when the rains stop early or where the water table is low.
Weed control
Weeds can cause considerable loss of cassava yield if not controlled. Weeds compete with the cassava for sunlight, space, nutrients, and water. Weeds are controlled so that cassava grows and develops well. Control weeds in the first three to four months after planting. Weeding can be done manually or with the use of herbicides.
Fertilizer application
For optimum yield, cassava requires an adequate supply of nutrients. Organic fertilizer like farm yard manure can be applied four weeks after planting. Inorganic fertilizer can also be used:
• NPK 15:15:15-12 (50kg)
• NPK 20:10:10-9 (50kg)
• NPK 12:12:17-15 (50kg)
Fertilizer should be applied in a ring method of 6cm wide and 10cm from the plant. Broadcasting method of fertilizer application can also be used. But ensure that the fertilizer does not come in contact with the cassava leaf or steam.

Pest and disease management

Pest and diseases in cassava farming are not as threatening like other plants. The common diseases and their solution are listed below:
• Cassava green mite- practice early planting, plant resistant varieties
• Cassava mealybug- plant resistant varieties, hot water treatment of stem cutting before planting.
• Cassava mosaic- crop rotation, plant resistant varieties
It is always advisable to apply the right insecticides, fungicides, and bactericides etc. also plant cassava varieties that are resistant to disease.
Cassava tuber should be harvested at peak of maturity, most varieties mature at 9-12 months after planting, depending on the variety and the climate. Cassava tubers may lose the valuable starch, rot or become woody if not harvested at maturity, harvesting too early results in a low yield while delayed harvesting results to reduce yield.
Cassava tubers are harvested by pulling the stem which carries the roots out of the ground. Harvesting could be done manually or mechanically.

Marketing of Cassava in Nigeria

The profitability of your cassava farm depends on where you sell and how you sell your products. You can sell at your local markets, or to companies that use cassava as their raw materials.
You can also source for people who process cassava into other products like garri, fufu etc. they can process for you and sell as well.

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