Innovation is one of those buzzwords that has gained a lot of traction in recent years. It is easy to associate this word with technology or something that is unique and complex. But at its core, innovation is simply a new method, idea or product. It doesn’t have to be a crazy idea (although these are good too).
At MEDA, many innovations may seem simple, but really, they are complex and nuanced. A project that perfectly highlights this idea of innovation is MEDA’s BEST Cassava project.
Meet Kezilahabi Manda Keya, a beneficary of the BEST Cassava Project in Tanzania. Mr. Keya, a father of two, is a commercial Cassava Seed Entreprenuer (CSE) in the region of Mwanza. Four years ago, Keya became involved with MEDA during the MMB pilot project. After the pilot wrapped up, he got involved with the BEST Cassava project. Mr. Keya doesn’t stop at growing Cassava, he also farms maize, beans and potatoes. He is also a fisherman and he rears a variety of animals including cattle which help him with land cultivation.
By establishing himself as a commercial CSE, Mr. Keya primarily sells his cassava seeds to farmers in the wards of his district. Through the cassava farmers association, local government and his own marketing efforts, he connects with potential customers with his mobile phone - establishing a market to sell his quality seeds. With his mobile phone, he can also source for additional seeds from the Basic CSE in his region for the next planting season, as well as source for casual workers to assist him on his farm.
Mr. Keya says that the BEST Cassava project has been beneficial to him and his family. Since his partnership with MEDA, he has seen his income increase. This has given him the ability to build a home for his young family as well as secure the funds he needs to support his growing children. As a cassava farmer, he not only has a stable income, his produce is a source of food for his family. His income has also allowed him to reinvest in his farming activities for expansion.
Mr. Keya still faces many challenges – especially when it comes to selling casava seeds. One issue is the fact that some of his cassava plants continue to be infected with diseases thus negatively impacting the quality and quantity of his harvest. Furthermore, Mr. Keya is having some difficulty finding a market for his improved cassava seeds. This is because cassava farmers in Tanzania are accustomed to freely obtaining their seeds from a neighbour or family member and they are yet to adopt the idea of purchasing cassava seeds that are more disease tolerant in comparison to the free seeds. These are some of the issues which Mr. Keya faces but he is positive MEDA and its partners can assist in alleviating them.
He wishes for MEDA to increase its efforts in educating the stakeholders of the cassava industry, particularly farmers, on the benefits of using the improved varieties. Nonetheless, he is happy with the work MEDA is doing so far to improve the livelihoods of his fellow farmers in Tanzania.
-- Davies Nyachieng'a, international intern with MEDA
Davies Nyachieng’a is currently interning with the BEST Cassava project in Tanzania. Davies was born in Kenya and grew up there before moving to Canada in 2012 for further studies. While in Canada, he completed his B.A and M.A in Economics at the University of Guelph with the aim of applying the knowledge and skills attained from his education to the development context. Learn more about him here.