Until yellow cassava arrived on the scene, the women of Kuakua in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) either stayed home or went into the forest to cut down trees for a living. None of those options brought fulfillment; one was as agonizingly unproductive as the other was backbreaking.
Groupedi, a local non-governmental organization established to promote livelihoods for women, needed new ideas. Its founder, Mahungu Mami, was desperate to find a sustainable and productive activity for the group’s 44 members. One day, she heard about yellow cassava and immediately saw an opportunity.
“I was chatting with our consultant from the National Institute for Agronomic Research and Study [INERA],” she recalls. “It was the first time I had ever heard about a variety of cassava that was high yielding and rich in vitamin A. I was very intrigued and wanted to learn more about this cassava, to explore how it could help us expand Groupedi’s activities.”
Mahungu contacted HarvestPlus, the organization working with INERA to promote yellow cassava in the country. She learned some more about the crop’s benefits: In addition to providing consumers with nearly half of their daily vitamin A needs, yellow cassava boasts competitive yields and is resistant to viruses. Adopting yellow cassava promised to pay off handsomely.
Convinced of the benefits, Mahungu enrolled Groupedi to partner HarvestPlus in the yellow cassava promotion program. The group started to multiply cassava stems and disseminate cuttings to as many farming households as possible in their area. Its members also started to process yellow cassava to produce and market flour, dough for making popular traditional foods such as fufu and chikwangue, and chips.
“We have not looked back since we adopted yellow cassava,” Mahungu says proudly. “We are earning good income, and our members are feeling productive and independent.”
As they look ahead, Groupedi’s members see even more opportunities to prosper with yellow cassava. Late last year, they began exporting yellow cassava flour in response to growing demand for the product among Congolese in the diaspora.