Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 30, Number 2, April-June 2010
|Page(s)||433 - 444|
|Published online||16 April 2010|
False beliefs on the socio-economic drivers of cassava cropping
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),
PO Box 7878, Kampala, Uganda
2 Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), PO Box 169, Kakamega, Kenya
3 Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Hohenheim, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany
4 Plant Production Systems, Wageningen University, PO Box 430, 6700 AK Wageningen, The Netherlands
* Corresponding author:
Accepted: 9 October 2009
General belief has it that cassava is (i) a subsistence crop, grown to avoid hunger (ii) by poor farmers, (iii) predominantly as an intercrop, (iv) requiring less labour than other crops and (v) no inputs. These beliefs influence policy, project development and implementation, and if wrong, may have far-reaching consequences for the success and sustainability of interventions. This study examines five beliefs about cassava and discusses consequences for interventions targeting cassava. From 2004 to 2006, 120 detailed farm surveys were carried out with smallholder farmers in 6 sites in central/eastern Uganda and western Kenya, whereby households were categorised in three wealth categories by local key informants. Through structured interviews and field visits, details on the importance of cassava, socio-economic indicators, food security, crop management and labour aspects were obtained. Our results show that cassava does ensure food security, but that the other beliefs are either myths or half truths. Besides supplying 27–41% of starchy staple food consumption, cassava also provided significant income (84 US$ yr−1), similar to that of maize (90 US$ yr−1). It is too simplistic to classify cassava as a ‘poor man’s crop’ as in Uganda wealthier households marketed more (+16%), but in Kenya consumed less (–11%) cassava than poorer farmers. Cassava is not predominantly intercropped (30% of acreage in Uganda and 51% in Kenya), farmers do use inputs on cassava (36% of the households hire labour) and total labour requirements (287 mandays ha−1) were higher than for most crops. Contrary to expectations, we conclude that increasing cassava production will not improve food security – unless a disease epidemic is present – but instead will improve the scope for commercialisation of cassava. To ensure that projects designed to enhance cassava production benefit poor and/or labour deficit households, specific provisions are needed, including development of labour saving technologies.
Key words: food security / income / input use / labour / wealth classes / weed management
© INRA, EDP Sciences, 2009