This work examined cassava production and its socio-economic impact on the livelihood of farmers in Etinan Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State with a view to sustaining farm livelihoods, as well as increasing cassava productivity in the region. To achieve this, the prevailing cassava production system, impact of cassava production on livelihood, and the constraints to cassava production in the area were assessed. 387 questionnaires distributed to sampled communities generated data for the study. It was hypothesized that; cassava production does not impact positively on farmers’ livelihood, and that cassava production does not face significant constraints in Etinan. The hypotheses were tested using chi-square technique at 0.05 level of significance. The result for hypothesis one proved positive with the calculated value 138.01 greater than the table value 26.30 which indicates that cassava production impacts positively on farmers’ livelihood. Also, the second hypothesis proved positive with 300.86 greater than 46.19 that cassava production faces significant constraints in Etinan. It was recommended that the integrated approach to rural development should be adapted in order to support cassava producers’ livelihood in the region. By this, cassava production and productivity will be increased leading to improved livelihoods and economic growth.



1.1       Background of the Study

            The need to boost agricultural production in order to increase food supply and reduce poverty in developing countries such as Nigeria where a significant proportion of the population is food insecure and malnourished rate of increase in agricultural productivity have continuously been advocated. Attainment of food security or sustainable livelihoods in these countries is intrinsically linked with reversing agricultural stagnation and safeguarding the national resource base (Bassey, Akpaeti and Umoh, 2014). One particular crop which attention should be paid to because of its potential in sustaining livelihoods and reducing poverty is cassava – a crop which is often overlooked and is underexploited at the moment in the country.

            Cassava, a major staple in Nigeria is believed to have originated in Northern Brazil and Central America. Today the crop is grown all over the tropics. It was introduced into Nigeria via Warri (in present-day Delta State) in the 16th – 17th century by Portuguese explorers (Vakasai, 2010). While cassava is produced in 24 of the country’s 36 states, cassava production dominates the Southern part of the country, both in terms of area covered and number of farmers growing the crop (Cassava production in Nigeria and is consumed by almost every household in Nigeria and is often intercropped with other crops (Bassey et al, 2014).

            Nyerhovwo (2004) cited in Muhammad-Lawal, Omotesho and Oyedemi (2013) indicates that in 2004 cassava meal war eaten at least once a day by the 80 percent of Nigerians who lived in rural areas.Cock (1985) estimated the per capita consumption of cassava of calories for many rural farmers and their livestock in Nigeria, cassava continues to play a major role in the feed security of farming households. It also has a carbohydrate content which is about 40% higher than rice and 25% more than maize (Nyerhovwo, 2004 cited in Muhammad-Lawal et al, 2013).

            Cassava over time does not only serve as source of food for man and livestock but also performs other functions. Cassava generates income for its producers, processors, transporters and marketers and serves as raw material in industries such as bakery, textile, paper, plywood and confectioneries (Muhammad-Lawal et al, 2013). As a cash crop, cassava generates foreign exchange for the economy.

            One thing that gives cassava an edge over many other coops is that it can thrive well and yield exceedingly under average soil conditions and low input. The crop is highly tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as droughts and highly acidic soils (Bassey et al, 2014). These characteristics have made the crop an important commodity for inter-agricultural sector (Muhammad-Lawal et al, 2014). This has become more important as the rapidly growing urbanization and other modern developments further shrink the remaining fertile lands available for cultivation leaving only the marginal lands in for example the swamps of the Niger Delta of Nigeria which are not suitable for development.

            Nigeria happens to be the largest producer of cassava in the world with the production figure of about 45 million tones which is about 19% of production in the world (cassava production in Nigeria, 2016). In 1995, Nigeria produced 31,404 million tons (Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 2009), the joint efforts of research institutein the country such as: the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) at Umudike, Abia State and the International Insitute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State (Bassey et al, 2014). The increased production has also been propelled by increased use of the crop for food by humans and livestock as a result of the rapidly growing population and the need for more convenience food as well as increased use of cassava as an industrial raw material (Muhammad-Lawal et al,, 2013).

            Government policies in the cassava sub-section of agriculture are not lacking. Starting with those of the second half of the 20th century to the ones of the early 21st century, including the Presidential Ccassava Production Initiative in 2002, where the aim was to use cassava production as an engine for economic growth of the nation (Bassey et at, 2014). Also, the Federal Government promulgated a law mandating bread producers to incorporate 10% and 90% of cassava and wheat into their production from January 2005.

            While the aforementioned policies have increased the demand for cassava and cassava-based product, Nigeria’s cassava production is still faced with many constraints. Cassava production is concentrated in the hands of small holders who cultivate less than 2 hectars of land using rudimentary tools (Muhammad-Lawal et al, 2013). As Adesiyan (2015) admits, the old fashioned agricultural system leads to low productivity. Azeez and Madukwe (2010) agree that the per capita growth of major food items, which includes cassava has not been sufficient to satisfy the demand of an increasing population. Cassava roots are prone to wastage due to inefficient harvest and post-harvest handling. Furthermore, there is inadequate information on income opportunities that exist in cassava production activities (Muhammad-Lawal et al, 2013).

            Although the cost of production of cassava varies throughout the country, a current budget enterprise indicates that it would require around N120,000 (if land is available) to cultivate one hectare of cassava farm and an estimated output of over N400,000 under a good management practice and high density planting (Deola-Tayo, n.d.). Bassey et al. (2014) suggest that cassava yield in Thailand and India are three times higher than in Africa and production cost in Brazil is one third that obtained in Africa. The yield per hectare for Nigeria is rank low relative to Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia who are major producers of cassava after Nigeria with average yield per hectare of 10.8,13.43, 16.8 and 12.02 tons respectively (Bassey et al, 2014).

            As if that is not enough, out of the total quantity of cassava produced in the country, bulk is used as food, with little or no use in the agribusiness sector (Bassey et al., 2014). According to Muhammade-Lawal et al. (2013), 90 per cent of cassava output is consumed, 5-10% is processed into primary raw material and about 2 percent are secondary raw material.  Oyewole and Philip (2006) cited in Bassey et al. (2014) shows that Nigeria’s cassava production accounts for a mere 0.001 percent of the world export market for the crop. This does not make sense as Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of the crop.

            Bridging the aforementioned gap calls for the adoption of more modern agricultural practices and techniques by cassava farmers and more investment in the cassava industry through support of farmers by granting loans and subsidies, providing infrastructure in the rural areas and a more integrated approach to rural development. Helping the farmers to add value through processing of their cassava produce will integrate them into the mainstream of the economy, improve the shelf life of cassava and generate higher income for them. When productivity increases and livelihoods are sustained, it will be found that cassava may not after all be a “poor man’s food” or “a woman crop” as it is often assumed, but a crop of promising economic value.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

            Despite being the largest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria is yet to top the full potential embedded in cassava. Cassava output as pointed out by Muhammad-Lawal et al (2013) is underutilized for income generation. For example, cassava output in the country is mainly for the traditional market. As Bassey et al. (2014) point out, between two-thirds and 90 percent of the total cassava production in Nigeria is used as food for humans with lesser amount used for industrial purposes and for livestock feed. This is notwithstanding the fact that may industrial uses for cassava and cassava products have been found over the years. This situation is also caused by the near absence of value addition to cassava produce in the country.

            Yield per hectare of cassava is very low in Nigeria with a source reporting 10.8 tons per hectare for Nigeria in year 2004. This is lower than the figures for Brazil (13.43), Thailand (16.8) and Indonesia (12.02) who also produce cassava in large quantity. As if that is not enough, Nigeria being the world’s largest producer of cassava accounts for a mere 0.001 per cent of the world export market for the crop (Oyewole and Philip, 2006 cited in Bassey et al., 2014), meaning that the country derives very insignificant  foreign exchange through export of the crop, as  Nigeria’s cassava production is mainly for the home market.

            In Etinan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, as in other parts of Nigeria, it is generally observed that apart from the low level of investment in the cassava industry, cassava production is in the hands of poor small scale resource farmers who still use traditional methods and practices for farming. This portends negative consequences for the livelihood security of farming households in the area is notwithstanding the fact that different governments the country have witnessed over the years have come up with very good programme and policies aimed at boosting cassava production for sustainable livelihoods, including the Presidential Cassava Initiative of 200Z and the 10% cassava content for bread in 2005.

            It is against this background that this study sought to know how the  production effort of cassava famers contributes to their livelihood security as well as the challenges faced by cassava producers in the study area so as to find ways of tackling these problems in order to increase cassava productivity, with the result being that livelihoods will be improved and foreign exchange from cassava export will increase leading to economic growth for the country.