BY MOSES KIRUI
The agricultural sector remains at the centre of Rwanda’s development programmes and is now recognized as the engine of growth that will drive poverty reduction in Rwanda and improved living standards for her people.
It stands out as one of the most strategic sectors to Rwanda’s development and one of the Government of Rwanda’s goals is to transform agriculture from subsistence to a modern sector as clearly set out in the EDPRS and Vision 2020.
Cassava tubers are rich in carbohydrates, mainly starch, and are a major source of energy. With the exception of sugar cane, cassava is the highest source of carbohydrates.
“For many years this important crop has been harvested, fermented and dried manually without proper hygienic procedures exposing consumers to risk and even lacking an avenue to fully exploit the potential of cassava crop. Rwandan people therefore have all reasons to smile with the opening of the Cassava plant in Kinazi an Ideal Avenue for economic development.” Said Robert Runazi, the plant’s Managing Director.
Kinazi Cassava plant an initiative funded by Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) is a true representation of this transformation, a true evidence of quality and an avenue to realization of the development dream. Kinazi Cassava plant which was commissioned on 16th April 2012 was conceived by the government of Rwanda as a way of adding value to the large and growing cassava production in the country. The plant is a modern and automated improvement of cassava processing and utilization technique prioritizing: increasing value to Cassava crop, improving farmers’ income and living standards, enhancing the shelf life of finished products, facilitating the marketing and distribution of cassava and improving livestock and human nutrition.
The plant which is located in Kinazi-Ruhango, 85 Km from Kigali city in Southern province, is an integrated company covering all aspects of the cassava value chain, from developing farmer capacity to packaging and selling wholesale products throughout the region and internationally.
According Mr. BirasaChrispin, the plant’s production manager in an interview with the New Times, the plant is well designed and structured to meet the needs and demands of producing quality cassava and granting farmers’ value for their produce.
“The plant has a maximum milling capacity of 144 metric tonnes of fresh cassava roots per day producing 48 tonnes of flour.” He explained
“Currently, we are able to produce 20 tonnes of cassava a day in a period of 10 hours, we are already working on a plan that will enable us produce 40 tonnes in 24 hours.” he added
The plant too has an approximately 3,000 metric tons of ware-house already installed. Even at nearly full utilization, this warehouse space is sufficient to support approximately one month’s inventory since finished products will not require lengthy storage.
Kinazi plant a timely solution for farmers
Kinazi plant is replete with the new state of art- high volume production facility, conducive soils for growing Cassava, familiarity with Cassava cultivation in the region, largest cassava milling plant in the region, government of Rwanda’s commitment to ensure the sustainability of the plant, full compliance with food quality and safety standards, the plant encourages organization of farmers in cooperatives, improved inputs and financing mechanisms, higher yields and value addition. The plant encourages farmers to organize themselves into cooperatives, grow cassava and acquire loans from BRD.
According to the plant’s Managing Director, Robert Runazi, the Cassava plant is a timely answer and solution to farmer’s hustles and uncertainties.
“We are able to take all the cassava from farmers that the micro-millers could not manage, we harvest the entire plantation, and in essence there is guarantee for farmers toil. We also ensure that farmers are paid well for their produce and in time” he asserted
The plant ensures that the needs of employees are well taken care of and maintained, the farmers are assured of various services including medical cover, capacity building among others.
“We are planning to obtain Mituelle De Sante for farmers that will cater for their medical expenses and organize more training on the best Cassava to grow and how to obtain maximum yields. Currently, we have a farmer’s day every quarter organized in a bid to improve Cassava quality and productivity” Said Justin Ngoga, the plant’s head agronomist.
Why Kinazi flour?
The Cassava produced by the processing unit conforms to the World Health Organization CODEX standards of edible Cassava. The plant has met all the requirements including: producing edible cassava that is safe and suitable for human consumption, flour that is free from abnormal flavours, odours, and living organisms, free from filth impurities of any origin including dead insects in amounts which represent a hazard to human health.
The standards prescribe a moisture content of 13% maximum, Kinazi plant has a moisture content of 9% evidence of the quality cassava flour produced.
Owning to the fact that Cassava contains potentially toxic compounds, cyanogenic glycosides; if present in sufficient quantities, these compounds can cause acute cyanide poisoning and death in man and animals when consumed. The amount of these toxic compounds varies according to cultivars and growing conditions.
There are many types of cassava based on the amount of cyanide content of the tubers: sweet cassava contains 40 - 130 ppm (parts per million) cyanide; non-bitter cassava, 30 - 180 ppm; bitter cassava, 80 - 412 ppm; and very bitter cassava, 280-490 ppm.
At concentrations less than 50 ppm, the cassava products are considered harmless. Consumption of cassava containing non-toxic levels of cyanide over long periods of time results in chronic cyanide toxicity. Cassava toxicity is also associated with malnutrition. In societies where the diet is lacking in protein, ingestion of under processed bitter cassava can result in poisoning.
The toxicity of cassava has long been known and many traditional methods exist to reduce the concentration of cyanide. The cyanide content of the sweet cassava tubers is mainly located in the skin, therefore, sweet cassava only require peeling and boiling to reduce the cyanide content to non-toxic levels. The bitter varieties are usually grated or chopped finely and allowed to soak in water where fermentation occurs, converting the cyanogenicglucosides into cyanide which is released in the environment. Drying (for storage purpose) and boiling will further detoxify the tubers.
This kind of process cannot be fully realized through traditional methods of fermentation and drying that cannot be accurately measured and verified. Kinazi plant employs the use of a well structure processing system that ensures safe cassava flour healthy and nutritious for human consumption.
Traditionally, the different varieties of Cassava commonly known as ‘Gitamisi’ is harvested and peeled manually, dipped in water ponds for three days to ferment, spread on reeds to dry-up and packed in sacks ready to be sold to micro millers.
There is a distinguishing mark between the locally produced cassava flour by small millers and Kinazi plant.
This is so, due to Kinazi’swell designed processing procedures that enhances safety, hygiene and quality. The plant processes raw cassava into Cassava flour through an effective and efficient process of; cleaning using well treated water, peeling using modern technology that ensures accurate removal of the cassava skin and chopping pilled cassava into small pieces for processing.
The chopped cassava goes to the conveyer and rasper for milling before being fermented. The fermented Cassava is then pressed by a pressing machine to ensure that all the water has been removed and filtered to obtain a quality solid material. The Cassava is then dried in a drier whose heat is well regulated, measured and observed; the dried Cassava flour is finally packaged into 1kg, 5kg, 25kg packets without any additives and preservatives.
Giving back to the nation and community
Kinazi plant is committed to ensuring food security in Rwanda; the produced Cassava flour can be stored in silos for future use and farmers have stable income, boosting their lives and welfare.
The plant will too through exportation of produced flour ensure import substitution of imported products like wheat which cost the country a lot of money. This is sure because the Rwandan flour is a mark of excellence everywhere it has been exported to. The flour has already acquired a huge market in Congo and will soon be exported to other countries including Turkey, Belgium among others.
In essence Kinazi plant comes with a lot of packages that directly and indirectly benefits the Rwandan people economically transforming lives and enhancing development ideals.