White chunks of cassava have already started to dry as they soak up the sun’s heat — on the way to becoming dried cassava chips.
Hellen Taaka popularly known as “Mama Muhogo” knows the routine of processing cassava tubers well. At 58, she runs a small cassava business in Budokomi village in Busia County in Kenya. She is confident of the entrepreneurial opportunities found after harvest; when yields processed can later be sold at favorable market prices.
“The best thing about agriculture is being able to harvest the fruit of your labor,” Taaka said. “Being a widow and the sole provider to a family of nine is no mean fit. I have to grow diverse crops like cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, soybeans and sell to pay fees and feed my family. And that is a great satisfaction for me.”
In a one-acre piece of land, Taaka grows cassava variety NASE 14. She notes that finding healthy cassava cuttings can be a challenge — a situation that can ruin a crop before a farmer’s hard work even begins.
Nevertheless, farmers are rapidly adopting a new technology that can protect crops from pest and diseases in addition to sourcing clean planting materials — a novel use of a mobile application invented by farmer Josephine Arisat. Called PlantVillage Nuru, this mobile tool can help scout and monitor crops for pest and diseases, in the end allowing farmers to select cuttings from healthy plants.
Taaka is amongst millions of farmers adopting technologies to help them adapt to climate change. “Back in 2020, I met field officer Lawrence Ombwayo from PlantVillage, during his routine farm visits in my village.” Taaka recounts, “I was mesmerized by a “talking woman” on his phone, who diagnosed my cassava plants to be infected by cassava mosaic disease – all this by hovering the phone on my crops!”
Taaka attended several in depth trainings with fellow farmers across Busia County and was issued with a smartphone equipped with PlantVillage Nuru application. She received cuttings from PlantVillage, multiplied each season and shared with her group members who do the same. With a digital assistant at hand, Taaka is helping her community to access healthy and improved cassava cuttings.
“I am a community ambassador, visiting at least two farmers each week. My goal is to sensitize farmers to plant improved cassava varieties and to educate them on how to manage cassava diseases. The health status of my crops has brought me trust from farmers. I can freely visit other farms, scout crops for pest and diseases damage using Nuru application, and advice farmers on management practices. I have used Nuru on other crops too like maize, sweet potato and irish potato.”
Her profits have increased exponentially since 2020. “From harvesting 2 bags in ¼ an acre to now harvesting 20 bags in one acre.” She beams.
Written By; Mercyline Tata