Enabling rural women prosper from cassava bioethanol production through university-community engagement


By Settumba Mukasa and Deogracious Opolot, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University

For decades, women in Apac District in Northern Uganda have produced bioethanol as a means of livelihood. In fact, some women in Chegere, Apac District confess to depending entirely on bioethanol as the source of income. Proceeds from the sale of bioethanol are used to provide basic household needs such as food, medication, soap and sugar, and also to pay for education of their children, some up to university level.

Cassava production in Apac District revolves around five main varieties including both indigenous varieties like Bao and improved varieties. Results from a study by the Cassava Community Action Research Project (Cassava CARP), funded by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) noted that farmers preferred their own local varieties, especially cultivar Bao, for food while recently released varieties are preferred for processing bioethanol that is sometimes constituted into a local potent drink locally known as waragi or lira-lira. Farmers believe that certain cassava varieties yield more bioethanol than others, and varieties less preferred to be eaten as fresh tubers are the ones used for brewing.

Demand for bioethanol has increased in recent times mainly due to the increased diversity of its uses. Research laboratories use it for preservation of biological specimens, cleaning and as a reagent for laboratory analysis; hospitals as a cleaning agent; schools for sanitary purposes; and brewing companies for making gins and beers. It is also used for making cosmetics, solvents, preparation of essences, and as flavorings in pharmaceutical products. The women of Apac could benefit from this increase in demand.

In recent years, the outbreak of the cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease devastated the production of cassava, the main raw material for bioethanol production. This outbreak almost plunged the rural population into extreme poverty, but was averted through interventions by the National Agricultural Research Organisation Uganda, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, and other institutions that provided new and high yielding varieties as well as launching programmes for providing planting materials.

The increased production of cassava, however, paused a new challenge of wastage due to rot especially during the rainy season and periods of peak production. Bioethanol production was one of the pathways to absorb this “excess” cassava, but needed to be optimised. Through engagement with women in Apac District, members of the Cassava Community Action Research Project (Cassava CARP) realized the immense potential of this product in elevating the standards of living of these communities. Bioethanol production was thus identified as one of interventions on which the team would focus.

The Cassava CARP team identified a number of challenges affecting the production and profitability of bioethanol. Firstly, the women got little returns for their labour as most consumers of bioethanol are members of the local community who pay low prices. Sometimes their clients even drink on credit and fail to pay. Poor road and transport networks meant that the market for bioethanol remained limited. Secondly, the quality of bioethanol was low. Preliminary proximate analysis of bioethanol sampled from parts of Apac and Kole districts indicated high levels of methanol and other impurities making the product unhealthy for direct human consumption. Thirdly, the process of making cassava bioethanol was found to be long and tedious thus greatly affecting the quantity that could be produced. This was further exacerbated by the use of rudimentary production methods and processing equipment that were characterized by low efficiency. Fourthly, to enhance hydrolysis and fermentation (key reactions in brewing) farmers use a lot of firewood to roast the cassava mash. This put pressure on the environment by way of cutting more trees.

Traditional cassava bioethanol production in Apac: A) Labour and firewood consuming roasting of pre-soaked cassava flour B) Time consuming distillation ofthe fermented broth yielding 0.5 liters of bioethanol per hour

Traditional cassava bioethanol production in Apac: A) Labour and firewood consuming roasting of pre-soaked cassava flour B) Time consuming distillation ofthe fermented broth yielding 0.5 liters of bioethanol per hour

In order to address these challenges, the Cassava CARP team is actively involving the community in improving the quality of bioethanol, reducing the length of the production cycle, and increasing productivity and profitability of the enterprise. This community engagement approach is aimed, more broadly, at improving the livelihood of the farmers and ensuring that efforts are sustainable. Currently, the team is assessing the processing technologies currently being used in order to increase efficiency and scale up production of the technology. It is also identifying microorganisms that can increase the conversion rate of starch to ethanol while reducing on the need to roast the cassava flour mash. Through this project, partnerships have also been established to enhance market linkages and in order provide better incomes from bioethanol production.

This work is a component activity of the Cassava CARP in Uganda being implemented with support from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (project ID No. RU 2014 CARP 04). For additional information please contact the Principal Investigator, Assoc. Prof. Settumba Mukasa, sbmukasa@caes.mak.ac.ug

Related articles on the Cassava CARP Project:

Call for Proposals 2017: RUFORUM Community Action Research Programme


Deadline: Submission of full proposals to RUFORUM Secretariat by 27th March, 2017

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation is implementing an eight year programme “Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev)”. The TAGDev Programme seeks to transform African agricultural universities and their graduates to better respond to developmental challenges through enhanced application of science, technology, business and innovation for rural agricultural transformation.

This is to announce the 2017 Call for proposals for the Community Action Research Programme (CARP+) targeted to Egerton University and Gulu University and financed by TAGDev Programme. The CARP program aims to encourage universities to develop and invest in more comprehensive and sustained action research into a particular geographical area or in a selected commodity along the full value chain. The CARP+ is defined by inclusion of the TVET as part of the CARP engagement that has hitherto not been a focus in earlier approved CARP Projects. This CARP+ Call thus seeks to support projects that innovatively enhance university-led action research and impact by engaging and working with technical/ vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions. All successful proposals must include at least one TVET institution as a partner, and demonstrate how the project will responds to TVET needs.

This specific Call seeks to extend university activities to work more closely with rural communities through multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional partnerships involving key stakeholders such as research, extension and development agencies, policy-makers, the private sector and TVET institutions as a must. The Call[1] will support proposals focusing on crops and livestock sector value chains of strategic importance in Kenya and Uganda that provide opportunity for sustainably moving a significant number of smallholder farmers out of poverty and food insecurity.

For this initial call ONLY proposals from Gulu University or Egerton University will be eligible.

Potential applicants are invited to review the detailed guidelines for the Call which may be download here

Important dates for the Call are as below:

  1. Deadline for full proposals to RUFORUM Secretariat by 27th March, 2017
  2. Compliance and External Reviews by 20th April, 2017
  3. Technical Committee review by 27th May, 2017
  4. Communication to PIs of shortlisted proposals by 30th May, 2017
  5. Submission of revised proposals 9th June, 2017
  6. Final Selection and Grant Agreements signed by 15th June, 2017
  7. Funds Disbursed by 25th June, 2017

For more information please email MCF@RUFORUM unit. Email: mcf@ruforum.org

[1] A follow up call to award four additional CARP+ projects will be released in August 2017. The call will be open to all RUFORUM member universities.

Useful Links:

  1. Annex A: CARP+ Application Form
  2. Annex B: CARP+ Budget Template
  3. Annex C: CARP+Logical Framework

The MasterCard Foundation supported TAGDev Project Website launched


tagdev

In June 2016, the MasterCard Foundation signed agreement with the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) to strengthen efforts to connect university education to the needs of rural communities. The eight year project “Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev)” is being implemented by RUFORUM and its member universities, with focus on Gulu University in Uganda and Egerton University in Kenya.

The TAGDev website will provide a portal for sharing updates on the Project, including the activities of the students who will be supported. The website hopes to demonstrate impact stories of community transformation. The website can be accessed at http://www.ruforum.org/MCF/. To keep updated with the latest discussions from this initiative, please follow the #TAGDev online discussions on social media. Click here to download the full press release.

Useful links: