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Cassava is 'Hidden Gold,' Kenyan Says
January 7, 2015

“It is the highest time for young Africans to take the leadership in many sectors of the economy.”

— Nickson Muturi

Creative entrepreneurs like YALI Network member Nickson Muturi know how to get the most from the resources they have.

Muturi, a 24-year-old cassava farmer and recent graduate of Kenya’s Egerton University, founded Bites Cassava Millers Ltd. in Nyeri, Kenya. In 2013 he began to explore ways to extract extra value from cassava, a staple that many considered “poor man’s

Nickson Muturi cutting cassava (Courtesy of Nickson Muturi)
Nickson Muturi harvests cassava on his farm in Kenya.

food.” In the process, he developed ways to turn cassava into flour and inexpensive animal feed. His work earned him a 2014 Agribiz4Africa award.

Cassava is a tuberous plant, rich in carbohydrates. Muturi considers the tuber “hidden gold” and wants to tell “as many people as possible, especially those in harsh climatic conditions, how they can use cassava to transform their lives.”

He used some of his award money to purchase cassava stems, which he gave to skeptical farmers to plant. He reaches out to other farmers through local media and mobile phones.

To produce flour from the tuber, Muturi cuts cassava into small pieces and soaks the pieces in water to clean them of any chemicals. He then adds a sodium preservative, puts the pieces into polythene bags and places the bags in the sun so the pieces will dry. The drying method is “environment-friendly and makes the drying process faster,” he says. He then mills the dry pieces into flour and sieves it to remove large particles.

Muturi uses the plant’s leaves and stems for animal feed. “I ensure that nothing goes to waste,” he says, adding that his methods can be applied to other foods like rice, yams, maize, millet and sorghum.

Poultry farmers are buying the animal feed, and bakeries and other food service providers are buying the cassava flour Muturi produces.

Nickson Muturi holding cassava stems (Courtesy of Nickson Muturi)
Muturi cuts cassava stems for animal feed.

Like any entrepreneur, Muturi has encountered challenges. “Many people thought that as a university student, I was not supposed to be working in the agricultural sector,” he says. “I have proved that nothing is impossible and that farming is cool and sexy.”

Muturi says the YALI Network has exposed him to other young Africans’ ideas: “I get a lot of inspiration from their stories.”

He says his professional goal is to develop work skills that reflect determination, adaptability and integrity. On a personal level, he aims to expect less and give more to society. He used another portion of his award to pay the school fees of two women working toward certificates in coffee growing.

 “I think it is the highest time for young Africans to take the leadership in many sectors of the economy. They have the energy and capability to drive these sectors to great success,” Muturi says.

Agribiz4Africa aims to generate ideas that can transform agricultural productivity and rural economies and create jobs. The competition is sponsored by the agricultural company Syngenta.