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Celine's cassava business takes root

Life is tough for Celine Adhiambo in western Kenya. Celine is a widow with five young children. The family live in a simple, traditional mud house on around one acre of land – what she produces on it is her only means of providing for her family.

Celine with local children showing the new cassava planting material.Cassava, which is well suited to the weather conditions in western Kenya, had been a staple food crop for families like Celine’s, until an outbreak of a disease called the mosaic virus destroyed farmers’ crops.

Drought-tolerant crops

Farm Africa’s crop specialists have shown Celine and her women’s group the benefits of growing new varieties of cassava that aren’t susceptible to the virus and also mature much faster. The women tested the new varieties on a demonstration plot, and learnt the best ways to sow and care for their precious plants, not to mention learning all the delicious dishes they can cook.

Celine said: “We were shown how to make the cassava into other food like chapatti, cake and crisps, not just to boil it. I mainly eat the cassava at home where I’ve been sun drying chips and making flour for ugali.”

Popular at market

Not only are the new cassava plants healthy, but they produce a much larger, more valuable crop than the old varieties. Having seen the excellent results at the demonstration plot, Celine has confidently allocated a quarter of her land to growing cassava. Cassava is popular at her local market and demand outstrips supply – so Celine is already earning good money.

As well as managing to pay for the school books and uniforms her children need, she has been able to save a little money for emergencies. When the roof of her home collapsed during a storm, she could buy a new corrugated iron roof to keep the family dry and safe.