Rockefeller Foundation To Give $1 Million In Grants For Cassava Innovations

The Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg and IITA, today launched an Innovation Challenge to uncover innovative solutions to increase cassava shelf life in Nigeria. The Challenge was announced at the World Economic Forum – Africa annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, and will provide up to US$1 million in funding, as well as technical assistance to implement business model development and product design.

Cassava is critical for food security in Africa. It is the main source of nutrition for around half of the continent’s population, or 500 million people. Yet this root crop has a very short shelf life and if unprocessed it will spoil within 24-72 hours after harvesting – less if it is damaged during harvesting or transport. Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for more than 20% of global production – more than 50 million tons annually, grown by nearly 30 million smallholder farmers.

Approximately 40% of this cassava is lost due to spoilage, a tremendous problem that limits farmer incomes and rural economic development, and one that stretches far beyond Nigeria’s borders as food spoilage and wastage affects our global economy and impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, “The agricultural transformation agenda is beginning to open up new income streams for farmers. A good example is the case of cassava.” In his previous tenure as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, Dr. Adesina championed cassava commercialization in the country and grew the capacity to process cassava into flour, starch, and several other products.

The Rockefeller Foundation Cassava Innovation Challenge will consider applications that are incremental as well as those that are transformative to the Nigerian cassava value chain. The shelf life issues arise from some of the following barriers:

Limited access to existing cassava varieties: Though varieties that extend shelf life do exist, access to or awareness of them may need to increase.

 Preservation of cassava between harvest and processing: Poor and inefficient handling, storage and transport either damages roots or leaves them exposed to the elements.

 Far-away processing: Processors are far from cassava farms and use inefficient manual peeling, allowing more time for the root to spoil before it can be processed into forms that have longer shelf life.

Any innovation that could enhance shelf life or reduce postharvest losses will be considered and those organizations that have ideas for transforming this critical link in food security – but may not have food security expertise – are encouraged to apply.

Given the global nature of cassava, which outside of Africa is grown in countries as diverse as Thailand, Indonesia, and Brazil, the Challenge is global and is open to organizations with innovative products/technologies, processes or services—in various stages of development—from anywhere in the world. IITA Director General Dr. Nteranya Sanginga comments that, “we have been working on cassava improvement and value chain development for many years from our base in Ibadan, Nigeria and our substations all over sub-Saharan Africa. We are very excited about the potential of this Challenge to bring to light innovations but also to get these innovations into the hands of smallholder farmers in Nigeria in a sustainable way”.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has a long history of supporting agricultural innovation and enhancing food security and farmer income,” said Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office. “Our Yield Wise Initiative, launched earlier this year, is committed to halving postharvest loss on the continent, and enhancing the shelf life of cassava will be key to achieving this goal, while having a significant positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of farmers and their families.”

Nneka Eze, Agriculture Practice Co-Lead and Associate Partner at Dalberg, remarks that, “if we solve the shelf life issues in cassava in Nigeria, we can solve them everywhere else. Our role in designing and managing the Challenge has allowed us to work directly with a diversity of innovators, agronomists, and business people keen to solve shelf life issues. We hope that the Cassava Innovation Challenge and the significance of the award will help to harness this energy from across agricultural value chains and even bring non-agricultural innovators into the cassava value chain.”

Visit in the coming weeks to apply for the challenge.

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