Cassava is an important food security crop in Kenya, mainly grown for subsistence and limited commerce in western, eastern and coastal regions. Demand for the crop has grown in non-traditional growing areas of Nakuru County where cassava agribusiness development initiatives have been introduced. However, take off of cassava agribusiness is constrained by introduced varieties’ susceptibility to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), late maturity, low yields and poor adaptability. Participatory introduction of improved sweet varieties with CBSD tolerance and exposure of communities to broad based utilities of cassava is needed to upgrade the value chain to a commercial status. The current study aims at contributing to improved food, nutrition and income security of Nakuru County small holder cassava farmers through innovations in the cassava value chain. The following objectives are being pursued; 1) farmer participatory screening of cassava varieties to select suitably adapted early maturing sweet varieties for the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of Nakuru County; 2) Improving CBSD resistance in farmer preferred varieties using Marker Assisted Selection techniques; 3) Developing safe high value cassava based food, feed and industrial products for improved food, nutrition and trade/ commerce; and 4) Building capacity of graduate, undergraduate, and TVET students, and farmers in breeding and development, testing and utilization of cassava food and feed products. The project under which these objectives are being persued has in the first year conducted a household baseline survey to determine the status of cassava production, value addition, and utilization in three selected sites (Sub-counties) in the county. A farmer participatory sweet cassava germplasm collection and evaluation in the three sites has been undertaken; the evaluation sites and plantings also acted as demonstration fields where farmer trainings were held. Also three suitable varieties for each of two sites (Subukia and Solai) have been selected for further bulking and distribution to farmers. Five farmers’ trainings on cassava production and evaluation have been conducted, with over 216 farmers attending. Two community dialogue sessions on cassava production and the crop’s benefits have also been held. Farmer to farmer learning has been initiated with the demonstration host farmers keeping registers of compatriots visiting their sites for learning purposes. In the project, two PhD students have been recruited to conduct studies on cassava product development (Food Science) and to develop improved germplasm with tolerance to CBSD (Plant Breeding). Four (4) M.Sc. students (2 Agribusiness and 2 Community studies) under the TAGDev programme are studying various aspects of the cassava value chain in Migori county where cassava is established crop value chain and one M.Sc student is studying aspects of cassava biochemistry for fermentable starch. 10 TVET students have been recruited to be exposed to cassava agribusiness through trainings in clean seed production and value addition.
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