Coronavirus: Why We Should Grow More Cassava During COVID-19 Lockdown

Agriculture is the most viable venture during  the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown,  which is economically affecting not only Ugandans but also people world over.

However, the blessing we have is that the pandemic has befallen our country during the rainy season, meaning that despite not being able to earn cash from our daily jobs, we can start working towards other ventures that will sustain us after the COVID-19 lockdown has passed.

As an Agripreneur, one of the easiest crops you can make money from is cassava,  because it doesn’t require a lot of caring and doesn’t take long to grow. Besides that, growing cassava doesn’t need a lot of space. All you need is a little space where you can plant a few tubers  and the rest will be handled by mother nature. But if you have a spacious garden then it is highly advisable to plant cassava,  because it even has the capacity to withstand adverse weather conditions.

It should be noted that cassava is one of the most selling crops because it can be eaten as food or sold to breweries that use it in the brewing of beer like Engule.

Cassava is a perennial shrub, which produces enlarged tuberous roots. Its height ranges from about 1 to 3 m or more. The stems are usually small and glabrous with nodes. The leaves vary in colour from green to reddish. There is a great variation in tuber number, shape and size and the angle at which they penetrate the ground.

A Cassava farmer shows off his harvest

Pastor George Kisolo a resident of Bukasa-Muyenga who owns a church at Bukasa known as Ever Increasing Miracle church, does not depend on church offering, especially now that churches were closed due to COVID-19.  He makes money by selling cassava, sugarcane and yams he grows at his small farm in the swamps on Bukasa.

 He said that; “Cassava is an important staple food crop for many people in Uganda. It provides a good source of industrial starch apart from people using it for food consumption either in flour forms or eating it boiled. Some even fry it as chips”

How Do You Plant Cassava?

“Cassava is propagated by cuttings got from a cassava plant stem,” Pr. Kisolo said, adding that; “To make cuttings, choose stems 2 to 4 cm thick, from the strongest plants which are not diseased and have already produced tubers. After the harvest, tie the selected stems in bundles; wait for at least 10 days before planting them. Keep the bundles in a cool, dry place until planting time. I plant cassava using hands. Mostly, planting is done at the onset of the rainy season, often in flat fields, although planting on ridges is desirable in wet regions.”

So, How Long Will Your Cassava Take To Grow?

He said that “Generally, cassava reaches maturity in 9-24 months or up to 36 months depending on the variety, climate and soil conditions. Some quick growing cultivars can be harvested in 6-7 months, but good yields are normally obtained after 9-12 months. When used fresh, the tubers are normally only obtained after 9-12 months, otherwise they become very fibrous.”

So,  How Do You Balance Family, Church And The Farm?

“I have a clear program, I always check my farm in the morning in case I have an afternoon service and then after I go to church. My family is of course my first priority, my wife is also a farmer, and she rears pigs and also helps me with farm work when she is free. I have helpers on the farm so I just supervise and advise them accordingly not that I be on the farm all the time Pr. Kisolo.  However, nowadays church is closed, so I spend most of the time in my garden,” he explained.

For How Long Have You Been Growing Cassava?

Pr. Kisolo  revealed that “I have spent 9 years in this field and I’m proud of that because I learnt so many things. For example, there is a big difference between now and years back when I was still new in farming.”

About the Best Soils For Cassava growing

He noted that “Cassava can be grown on a wide range of soil but best on deep, free draining soils with reasonable fertility levels. Shallow and or thick soils which may restrict tuber expansion should be avoided. Since I farm in the swamps, I have no seasons and by the way positioning  of the tuber while planting is very important. You should plant your crops where there is  enough sunlight.”

Weeding Cassava Crops

“Keep the crop weeded in the second month after planting, and intercropping also helps to suppress weeds. Farmers are advised to plant when the soil is moist meaning they should target first and second season rains and once the stalk germinates, the plant will be able to grow,” Kisolo explained.

He however cautioned that “Planting during dry season will lead to failure of the seeds to germinate coupled with destruction caused by pests such as termites, he says.

How Do You Control Pests And Diseases?

“Most times insect pests are not a threat to cassava production but still need attention. The most notable ones include Cassava mealy bug which attacks mainly the growing points of the plant causing stunting, leaf and deformation. Severe damage leads to tuber quality deterioration; however, I rarely face that here,” Pr. Kisolo said.

He added that “ Another one is Cassava green mite, a sucking pest which leads to reduced growth, scorching of leaves, tiny leaf production, leaf fall and eventually a plant without leaves. The best control method is use clean and tolerant varieties like Nase 14 and 19 plus biological control of spraying the plants with recommended chemicals.”

How Do You Harvest And Store Your Cassava?

“Depending on the variety, harvesting cassava for food could begin from the 7th month after planting for early maturing varieties; or after the 10th month for late varieties. I can harvest the tubers as if I need them; without cutting the stems, I begin by taking the biggest tubers from each plant, leaving the small ones to give them time to fill up. After that I transport it to the market or cut it into pieces for drying if it is for making flour,” he said.

How can you advise the upcoming farmers?

“If anyone wants to grow cassava, the first thing to think of must be space, good varieties and having the passion, “enkumbi terimba,” the Pastor said, adding that; “Farmers should have a passion. In order to be a good farmer; you need to love what you’re doing. Prepare enough space and get good cassava stems from a known farmer.”

What Have You Gained From This Business?

The man of God said that “I have managed to feed my family; I have a wife and 8 children. More so, I support my church; I help people who come to church with problems by providing them with food. I earn money from cassava, because I get many customers often.”

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