At close to 31km off the main road in Ruhango district, Kinazi sector, an area widely known for its cassava production harbours the Kinazi Cassava Plant (KCP)

Kinazi Cassava Plant was inaugurated in April of 2012 by H.E Paul Kagame, the second plant of its kind on the African continent after another one in Kumasi, Ghana. The plant cost well over Rwandan Francs 6 billion in construction and equipment acquisition and it is owned 100% by Rwanda Development Bank (BRD). Despite being in existence for hardly five months, the impact that the Cassava Plant has had on farmers is one which they [farmers] describe as a dream turned reality. “Our major hindrance was a market to which we could sell our produce basing on the remoteness of our area.” Being located far in the interior discouraged traders from going deep to get the produce and thus farmers had to be the ones to look for the markets “Having this plant indeed even surpasses the dream that we held,” Rwibasira Vital, a cassava farmer and the leader of a farmers’ cooperative in Kinazi said. Among the achievements made as a result of the plant is the independence of cassava production from natural factors like weather. “We used to harvest then soak the cassava in water in order to allow fermentation as a way of getting rid of the cyanide, which is the bitter and poisonous chemical. After this, we would have to depend on the on the availability of enough sunshine to dry the cassava chips; if not so, we could lose most of the produce in rotting,” Rwibasira added. However as the farmers noted, this has all changed with the presence of the Cassava processing plant in the area. This is mainly because all the activities involved in the entire process have become mechanized. However the contribution that the plant has so far made transcends making just offering a ready market for the farmers.

With a team of six agronomists, the KCP offers extra support in a way technical know-how on the good farming practices in cassava growing. “We often go to the farmers and advise them on how to plant, which varieties to plant, which fertilizers to use in order to get high yields and many other more good practices,” Ngoga Justin, the head agronomist at the plant noted. This support which is rendered to farmers in form of technical know-how will result into increased production per hectare of grown cassava in the next harvest season. “I used to produce below 20 tons per hectare but now with the support that we receive from the specialists, I am looking at production of as much as 30 tons on the same size of land,” Rwibasira noted. Besides the already offered support, the Managing director of the KCP Mr. Robert Runazi noted that there are many more other innovations in facilitating farmers yet to be initiated. “We are thinking of rolling out other initiatives like contract farming for cassava growers in this region. This will facilitate farmer’s access to financial support to acquire inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and farm machinery, which we believe will transform the current subsistence to commercial farming in line with the fifth pillar of the government’s vision 2020.”

The envisioned method of contract farming will feature KCP offering financial support to farmers in order to grow the cassava crop and the farmers in-turn supply all their production to KCP. A policy that is going to be followed in the implementation of facilitated contract farming (FCF) is being developed by Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB). “We are only waiting for a policy to be developed that will ensure that both parties are bound to the obligations of the contract. What we are seeking is a legal framework to ensure that the interests of both parties are properly catered for” Runazi noted. It is the intention of BRD to have farmers cooperatives acquire a stake in form of shares in KCP of up to 30% and to this end different cassava growers cooperatives are organizing and mobilizing the members to take advantage of this investment opportunity that will give them the benefits of receiving dividends from profits made as well as a voice in determining prices of their production as well as the final products from the plant.  Also, as part of innovativeness in the empowerment of cassava farmers, the KCP in collaboration with RAB is also vetting for the creation of high yield cassava varieties that also take a shorter time to mature. This will help farmers to benefit more from the crop. Besides having the mandate to empower cassava farmers, value addition to the cassava crop is another expectation that KCP is required to achieve first in the southern province where it is located and then in the whole of Rwanda. “Our main objective and of course duty is value addition so that cassava farming can be more profitable and thus attract Rwandans into growing it,” the KCP boss noted. Rwandan soils have a high potential to give us good yields of cassava since it is a crop that can withstand long drought periods and can also grow in relatively sandy soils.

According to KCP’s production manager Crispus Birasa, improving quality of production at the plant is our first priority. Flour is produced in a highly controlled and automated process undertaking all quality measures from the reception of produce through the peeling, milling, fermentation, sieving, flash drying up to packaging of the finished product. Also to ensure the quality and consistency of cassava flour, which is currently the main product at the plant, there is an in-house laboratory fully equipped in which various tests are done. “Moisture content in cassava flour is one of the key areas that need continuous monitoring; it should be kept within a range of 12-13 per cent,” Runazi noted. With regard to improving the value of the cassava crop on both Rwandan and other markets beyond, KCP is planning to diversify by installing a production for starch that can be used in textile, pharmaceutical, bread-baking, pastries and other industries by end of 2013, thus leading to the development and sustainability of other industries by readily providing raw materials. In addition, KCP is considering a project of producing animal feeds, all of which will increase the demand for cassava crop. “We are about to embark on a feasibility study to producing animal feeds mainly for livestock, pigs, fish and poultry. These will be produced from cassava waste such as peels” Runazi noted. He added that the animal feeds envisioned could also be fortified to increase the nutritional content. This will come to complement such demands in the country as for fish feeds as the fisheries sector envisions growing the commercial farming of this particular animal. Thus the realization of value addition to the cassava crop will undoubtedly contributeto Rwandan economy.

To create the customer awareness and demand for the high quality cassava flour produced, KCP has started a cross-country campaign using mobile sales trucks. “The cassava flour that we produce in this plant is delicious, safe and of the highest quality, all we call for is that Rwandans should try – we guarantee that they will like it,” Runazi voiced. Kinazi cassava flour comes in different packages of 2kg, 5kg and any other size of packaging depending on the customer’s preference. It can be found in all the main markets around Kigali city, Muhanga, Ruhango, Huye, Musanze, Rusizi and Rubavu areas. Plans are underway to export it to other markets such as in Brussels, Paris, London and several parts of USA.