Rooted in Ghana; why cassava could drive agtech

5 min readSep 12, 2022

The current state of affairs in Ghana

How big is this agricultural sector?

In Africa, Nigeria is claimed to have the largest cassava production, followed by DRC in 2nd place and Ghana in 3rd. Cassava is a very important root crop in Ghana, as it is the base for many staple foods and one of the major contributors to the country’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP). The importance of Cassava in the food systems of Ghanaians cannot be underestimated, as it contributes about 22% and 30% to the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP) and daily calorie intake respectively. It is estimated that over 70% of farmers in Ghana engage in some form of cassava production. According to Gepaghana, that is about 1M+ hectares.

The most important root; food crop vs cash crop

Cassava is so popular in Ghana because it has primarily served as the country’s food security crop for years. The food security role of Cassava is widely attributed to its availability during times of food shortages. It is a robust crop which produces more per hectare, is famine resistant and is extremely versatile as a food. E.g., for starch, flour, ethanol and chips. Therefore it is no surprise that more than 30% of cassava that is produced is for consumption.

Given the widespread farming of cassava, it makes one wonder — is cassava farming good for business? Well, according to this research from the University of Debrecen, perhaps.

The business of cassava farming

The champions: smallholder farmers

Mckinsey has noted that across Africa, the number of medium-sized farms has been rising; regardless, increased smallholder productivity will be the biggest growth driver in the agricultural sector. Collectively, smallholder farmers produce the most agricultural products in Africa, and the same applies to cassava in Ghana.

The demographics of the rural smallholder farmers vary, but most of them, have no formal education, but they have significant farming experience. For most of these farmers, their land was hereditary and therefore considered a cheaply available resource.

Is it profitable?

With access to cheap labour in rural settings, smallholder farmers have resorted to low-input farming experiences, rather than leave the land idle. So what does the economics of this look like?

N.B, the following highlights are from these researches: One, two, three, and four.

In terms of cost, labour (agronomic practices, harvesting), and transportation account for the highest expenses at about 50% and 20% respectively. These costs vary and shift unpredictably with changes in the economic landscape. In production, an acre of land yields approximately 6 tonnes of cassava, with 45% of the harvest typically being sold. After sales, a rural smallholder farmer grosses a margin of just 6%. I.e., for every $1 invested into cassava farming, a farmer would expect $1.06 at the end of the farming cycle.

So is it profitable? Yes: but one doesn’t need to be an analyst to know that these margins are extremely low, especially given a farming cycle could last up to 4 yrs.

The versatility of cassava & the local and global demand

Despite the abysmal margins, the local and global demand for cassava has drastically increased. The global cassava starch market size was valued at USD 40.53 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach USD 66.84 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.50% during the forecast period. Cassava is gradually gaining attention as an industrial crop for flour, starch, and alcohol production. It is even considered an excellent supplement to wheat flour up to 20% for the production of bread and other pastries. This could be game-changing, especially now with the dwindling global supply of wheat.


The rising demand for cassava starch in both the local and international markets presents a great opportunity for Ghana to enhance foreign exchange revenue through export and improve farmers’ livelihood through improved income. As it stands, the leading importers of Ghana’s cassava are the UK (16%), France (14%), Turkey(14%) and the Netherlands (13%). However, the country has a massive opportunity to export to nations with surging demands such as China, Taiwan, the US and Japan. A drive to improve cassava farming for export could drastically improve the returns to smallholder farmers in Ghana.

Tech intervention

What is missing?

From the profitability analysis, we can see that the biggest problem areas are agronomic practices, access to affordable farming equipment, and transportation for the produce. However, these are not the only issues;

  1. Cassava is mostly seen as a subsistence crop, even though most farmers sell nearly half of all of their produce. Because of this, not a lot of investment has been channelled to the sector to boost output, which has further fostered the cycle of low-input farming.
  2. There is an education gap among rural smallholder farmers. Improvements go beyond labour, equipment and transportation. There is a need to educate farmers on the varieties of cassava; showing which ones improve productivity.
  3. Farmers lack soft skills that can be advantageous to them, especially in areas where they have high market penetration.
  4. Smallholder farmers lack incentivises in terms of credit and other production inputs to adopt improved technologies for increased productivity and improved livelihoods.

What can be done?

  1. Increase technical support in the development and dissemination of improved farming practices from low-input farming to high-output practices. These technologies can improve cassava farmers’ crop resilience to climate change.
  2. Give farmers these materials/easy access to these materials (cassava varieties to plant, tools and hardware).
  3. Upskilling farmers with soft skills such as accounting and bargaining power to realise better returns.
  4. Agtech financing.

Proof of concept: the MAG project

The MAG project was a five-year initiative introduced in 2017 to provide budgetary and technical support in response to the objectives of food and agricultural sector development policies, productivity, and value chain management issues to increase farmers’ incomes and livelihoods. The study was conducted by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), where they tracked the progress made by the adopters of the support and non-adopters. The study revealed that while non-adopters increased their yield by less than 1% from 2017, the productivity of adopters increased by 62%. You can read more on the MAG project here.

Tech companies can achieve a similar impact. Where organisations and institutions move slow and steadily, we have seen startups move swiftly, quickly adapting to new information and acting fast on insights. As I conclude, I would like to highlight a few companies that are making headway in the Agtech space in Ghana (not exclusively for cassava farmers/ farming): Tro Tro Tracto, ColdHubs, Complete Farmer, Kitovu, Grow For Me and Farmline.

Are you in the Agtech sector? I would love to hear your thoughts.




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