Already in operation in Sao Tome and Principe is the first semi-industrial plant for the processing and production of cassava and by-products. It is an infrastructure to boost household production of cassava and its by-products and increase the availability of this food in school food programs.
Inaugurated on the 16th of October, the new plant is already accessible for processing the crops of more than 50 members and small farmers from the town of Margarida Manuel, in the Sao Tome District of Mé-Zochi.
The increased of food insecurity in recent years in Sao Tome and Principe, created by a reliance on exports of cocoa and the worsening global food crisis has caused heated debate around a National Strategy for Food Security which includes crop diversification. However, there has been a waste of raw materials, especially cassava, corn, fruits and tomato for processing, simply because there is little incentive for the activity and also a lack of support for producers and processors.
IMVF through the Decentralised Food Security Project in Sao Tome and Principe (STP-PDSA) has worked to build capacity of production, processing and valuing of various agricultural products, including cassava, a crop considered a complete plant, a source of fibber, protein and vitamins.
The new processing plant, operated by the Cooperative ‘New Light’, responds to this challenge, thus increasing food availability in the area: easy access to cassava flour and derivatives, such as bread, cakes and tapioca and has the potential to put these products to serve the school food program. This activity is being studied in partnership with the Sao Tome Government and the World Food Programme (WFP) in order to contribute to a more balanced diet for children and young people from secondary schools and to encourage a stronger link between domestic producers and support for schools and other vulnerable groups in the community.
With this factory, and in the words of Celso Garrido, a technician of the project, “we intended to stop the logic of supporting individual small-scale infrastructure, by creating a plant with better working conditions, healthier and increased production capacity.” The plant already started to work with an average production of 300 kg of flour per day, an amount which can be further increased if necessary.
At the time of opening, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development called for making “good use of infrastructures, so they last as long as possible and better serve the community.”
Attending the event were also the Agriculture General Director, the EU representative in Gabon, a representative of the WFP, the President of the Producers Cooperative of flour and cassava, among many NGOs belonging to the Civil Society Network for Food Security and Nutrition (RESCSAN), supported by the PDSA.
IMVF believes that one of the ways of solving the problems of food security in Sao Tome and Principe is by strengthening the capacity of various stakeholders from NGOs working on issues such as food security to farmers and their associations. In this sense, the PDSA has managed to position itself as a capacity building project, having achieved in two years, two major milestones:
? Support the strengthening of the RESCSAN?s role and its member NGOs, a process that enabled the civil society to organise and promote in 2010 an International Forum on Public Policies for Food Security, which left a proposal from Civil Society for a National Strategy for Food Security;
? Innovation in agro-processing, achieved through technical assistance and exchanges with Brazil. These exchanges opened horizons to domestic producers, allowing a good knowledge of the technologies to be implemented in Sao Tome, a decisive factor for its success.
The launch of the factory, one of the major investments of the project, is also giving some additional benefits to the community of Margaret Manuel, including the availability of energy and water, so far nonexistent.
In the near future, various training sessions will take place aimed at improving household production techniques, processing and storage, in order to increase the quality of local products.
Also to be developed is a programme of consolidation of the operation of the Cooperative as well as a connection of new processing plants for the School Food Programme.
In addition, the dissemination of this new processing plant will be strengthen, in order to promote its products, an added value to local production and enhance opportunities for employment and income generation for the rural population.