Study Identifies Gender-based Constraints Affecting Bio-fortified Cassava Production in Nigeria

Market demand is a key driver of the production of bio-fortified cassava for male adopters and farmers. However, for women, consumer acceptance, preference, and market coupled with the health benefits of bio-fortified cassava—mainly targeting children and pregnant women—are the motivation for adopting and processing.

A study to identify gender-based constraints affecting the production, processing, and marketing activities of bio-fortified cassava in Oyo and Benue states has established this fact.

The study carried out by researchers from IITAAssociation of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment (AUPWAE) Gender and Development Consultant, Gender-Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) RTB Fellows, and CIAT HarvestPlus aims to support developing more equitable strategies for the dissemination and utilization of biofortified cassava varieties and products.


Observed drivers of bio-fortified cassava production, processing and marketing varied among men and women adopters in Nigeria.

Gender analysis shows different importance on constraints experienced by men and women along the biofortified cassava value chain.

Study informed gender-responsive strategies to address the identified gendered and regional constraints.

Bio-fortified cassava is a low-cost sustainable strategy for reducing vitamin A deficiency (VAD), leading to improved nutrition and economic livelihood opportunities for all age groups. VAD affects 30% of children under 5 and 20% of pregnant women in Nigeria.

It leads to impaired immunity, impaired vision, blindness, and even death.  


This study identified gender-based constraints affecting the production, processing and marketing of biofortified cassava in two states in Nigeria, using a mixed-methods approach. The study identified major differences between the two study sites (Benue and Oyo).

The scale of production of biofortified cassava is higher in Oyo state among adult men because of their active involvement and collaboration with research institutes within the state and the ease of transporting products to Lagos State for designated diverse markets.

However, in Benue state more adult and young women are engaged in cultivation, processing and marketing business to meet up with the increased demand due to higher consumer acceptance in this region. Gender analysis revealed that lack of access to hired-labour restricted the scale of production among women in especially Oyo state.

Low product price and high price of processing equipment, poor market infrastructure and middlemen exploitation were constraints significantly more mentioned by women in general. Majorly, the men identified limited processing facilities/equipment as the most important constraint affecting the demand of bio-fortified cassava roots, while generally women were more constrained by the shortage of basic amenities and trainings that hindered their processing efficiency.

The study proposes integration of gender-responsive strategies to further enhance the delivery of bio-fortified cassava products in Nigeria.

The researchers, led by Olamide Olaosebikan, IITA Research Associate (Gender and Scaling Innovation) and Elizabeth Parkes, HarvestPlus Cassava Breeder, recommended information from this study as an aid to empower extension officers.

This data will provide gender-responsive advisory services and appropriately disseminate bio-fortified cassava varieties that will be accepted by and useful to male and female farmers and processors.

“We postulate that the integration of gender-responsive delivery strategies will further enhance the delivery of biofortified cassava products in Nigeria. This will improve food and nutrition security and reduce poverty”, Olaosebikan said.

In Benue State, women were early adoptors of bio-fortified cassava because they benefited from awareness campaigns that stressed the health advantages of the new varieties.

Furthermore, the processing of the yellow roots produces yellow garri with low starch content, which is preferred by health-conscious consumers in Benue. Women processors usually add costly palm oil to the white cassava mash to make garri yellow.

By using biofortified cassava, they can use less or no palm oil at all. Since men in Benue do not often process gari, they are less interested in yellow cassava cultivation for the upcoming market demand.

In Nigeria, the world’s largest producer and consumer of cassava, Vitamin A deficiency affects 30 percent of children under the age of 5 (World Health Organisation estimates), resulting in reduced immunity, impaired vision, and, in some cases, even blindness and death. Furthermore, these health impairments cost Africa’s largest economy an estimated US $1.5 billion in lost GDP every year (World Bank).

To address this deficiency, our group representing the HarvestPlus Nigeria project returned from the GREAT Gender-responsive Root, Tuber and Banana Breeding course in September 2016 to conduct surveys of women and men value chain actors in key Nigerian states.

They found that traditional practices among women farmers, processors and vendors provided opportunities for increasing adoption and consumption of vitamin A-enriched cassava.

In Benue State, they interviewed processors, mostly women, who told us that prior to the introduction of vitamin A cassava – also called yellow cassava, because of the yellow hue imparted by the ß-carotene – they usually detoxified cassava by adding palm oil for safe consumption, good taste and fine attractive colour for acceptability and increased patronage by customers who had higher preference for it.

This indigenous practice by women (also common in the South-eastern and South-southern states in Nigeria) during processing stimulated their interest to quickly adopt yellow cassava varieties when it was disseminated by HarvestPlus partners, IITA cassava breeding unit farmers’ field day team, and the government extension services.

Women were found to be innovators and early adopters due to vitamin A-cassava’s nutritional-health benefits, and the cost savings associated with reduced palm oil use.

Over time, women’s enthusiasm and active involvement in yellow cassava production, processing and marketing activities convinced men along the value chain to adopt it as well. As the men started adopting and cultivating vitamin-A cassava, they noticed that the demand for yellow cassava fresh roots kept increasing.

Women who sell vitamin-A cassava products, such as gari, fufu, abacha, bread, snacks and cakes, talked passionately about its nutritional benefits to consumers who patronized their markets and food, which included men and women of various socioeconomic statuses.

In meetings with women and women’s associations, participants also talked about training and also train younger women on value addition to yellow cassava for income generation, in partnership with NGOs.

As we learned in the survey, preference, demand and acceptance of yellow cassava fresh roots, stems and products was higher in Benue State compared to Oyo State. Our GREAT-group representing the HarvestPlus team found that women were the early adopters in Benue State compared to Oyo State.

The discouraging factor for women and men farmers in Oyo State was due to low preference, demand and acceptance of the yellow cassava roots and products by consumers, due to low starch or dry matter content and inadequate awareness on the micro-nutrient health benefits.

Although Oyo State is one of the leading producers of vitamin A cassava in the area of land cultivated, this production drives the commercialization of biofortified cassava with Lagos State as one of its key markets.

The consumer preference in Oyo State at the household level is comparably low, because the major staple – amala or lafun made from yam flour or cassava flour – loses most of the carotenoid content during sun-dying of the yellow cassava roots.

There is a need to educate consumers for a behavioural change at the household level to increase vitamin A cassava consumption. Other products such as cassmoi, combo bits, and cassava custard could be introduced and promoted.

On the other hand, there is higher consumption at the household level in Benue State due to preferences for yellow cassava (from a personal communication with the HarvestPlus Country Manager). Both farmers and consumers in Benue State saw the low-starch or dry matter and high vitamin-A content as beneficial to their health, which resulted in higher production, and increased demand for fresh roots, stems and products such as gari and fufu.

Scaling up adoption and sustained acceptance of yellow cassava requires increasing consumer awareness about the health benefits of yellow cassava roots, and utilizing the enthusiasm and marketing skills of women farmers, processors and marketers.

These skills should be strengthened through capacity-building, training on product preparation, packaging, agri-business models to adopt, and linkages to export markets.

These findings were made possible by the exposure and training we received at GREAT trainings.

“The gender-responsive theory and practice we learned in the GREAT course allowed us to really understand adoption relationship between men and women farmers and traits preferences than we had before”, said Durodola.

Implications of the GREAT project and further work in sustainable adoption of biofortified cassava in Benue State, Nigeria includes developing and implementing gender-responsive strategies that will solve the identified gender-based constraints.

This is important in ensuring gender-equitable breeding outcomes for improving health and nutritional security (especially among children and pregnant women), and increasing income among rural farming households in Benue State, Nigeria.

In Oyo State, consumers prefer white, sour gari, so the women who make it prefer to use white roots. From Oyo and Ogun states, yellow garri is taken to Lagos, where there is a niche demand in restaurants and households.

Although the lack of access to hired labour has restricted the scale of production among women, men generally have better-developed networks, including cooperation with research institutes and larger processing centers to link to extended, specific biofortified cassava markets.

Other constraints identified by men in both states include limited processing facilities and equipment for biofortified cassava roots. Low product prices and the high price of processing equipment, poor market infrastructure, and exploitation by middlemen were mentioned more by women.

Shortage of basic amenities such as a borehole at the processing sites and stable electricity, and lack of access to training hindered women’s ability to process new biofortified cassava products. Domestic injuries, the time required for peeling cassava roots, and lack of modern processing facilities like the smoke-free gari fryer also reduced the processing efficiency for women.

The survey team benefited from training from the GREAT programme. The team interviewed 201 people in the cassava value chain, comprising 125 men and 76 women adopters of biofortified cassava using a mixture of semi-structured questionnaires, focus group discussions, direct observations, and walks through each community.





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