Sierra Leone – Introducing “gari” into the food basket
Gari, a popular food in West Africa also known as tapioca, is flour made from cassava tubers and is now distributed by WFP in its school feeding programme in Sierra Leone. Selling gari, the national staple along with rice, to WFP offers small-scale suppliers a welcome additional opportunity to increase their income.
Under the Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme, WFP in Sierra Leone issued a contract for five tons of gari to a small trader in early 2011 - this marked the first time that WFP had tried to purchase gari locally and it was successful. After this initial purchase, WFP started to negotiate further contracts with farmers’ organizations supported by supply-side partners. Subsequently, three more contracts for 5 tons each were signed in mid-2011; a second-time contract with the trader and two with farmers’ organizations (FOs). All contracts were fulfilled by the suppliers and the gari was distributed in WFP’s school meals programme.
In the first quarter of 2012, WFP again signed contracts with four FOs and the trader. Four of these contracts over five tons have been collected already, while the fifth contract for 10 tons is currently under delivery to WFP.
Buying gari responds to both the Government of Sierra Leone’s priority focus on cassava as an important national staple crop, as well as the local preference for gari rather than bulgar wheat. The pupils in the schools supported by the WFP school meal programme are reportedly happy to now receive gari. Introducing gari to the school meals was also welcomed by the Ministry of Education.
Through buying gari, P4P is also linking up with initiatives of other stakeholders in the country: The cassava value chain is one of the priorities in the Government’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), and supply-side partners including the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the World Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have made significant investments into the value chain. Expanding the local production and marketing capacities for gari is also an important step towards increased regional trade, where huge opportunities exist for selling gari.
Contracts have been kept to a maximum of 10 tons per supplier, as only the trader and one of the FOs have demonstrated the financial capacities to deliver gari to a WFP delivery point, while other FOs have a much longer distance to manage.
In the future, single contracts will be increased to 10 tons as a minimum tonnage, with a possibility of signing additional contracts if deliveries take place successfully and farmers’ organisation can deliver more. To enable this, P4P and its partners will address the challenge of access to post-harvest credit for the FOs. IITA is learning from PAGE and World Vision who recently successfully carried out a pilot with a commercial bank for WFP rice contracts, using the contracts as collateral.
The support the farmers received from the different agencies taking part in P4P in Sierra Leone was crucial and enabled them to access formal markets such as WFP. For example, the farmers use a power-tiller with a cage wheel that had been supplied by WFP in 2011 as a means for short-distance transport (5-10 miles) for both cassava tubers and the final gari product.
IITA, one of the local partners in P4P, supported farmers organisations to mechanize the process of grinding cassava into gari flour, and provided trainings on process control such as the use of clean water (as sanitation measures) and introducing stainless pans for roasting (to avoid burns), saving starch (normally considered as a waste) for commercial use. IITA is also promoting satellite processing centers, which allow for cassava to be aggregated and graded at the village level and then transported to the main processing centers for the production of gari.
Farmers’ organisations are increasingly finding more market outlets beyond P4P with support from partners. P4P is promoting sales of quality gari in bulk and retails in periodic markets, supermarkets and eventually in cross-border markets at a later stage. Partners and WFP are now looking at packaging and branding of other cassava products such as fufu, attieke (cassava cuscus) and high quality flour (for cassava bread).