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Sierra Leone Business: FINIC rolls out peel and grate cassava equipment

Cassava is said to be the third largest foodstuff in the tropics, after rice and maize and a major staple food for developing countries like Sierra Leone, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Fours years ago, FINIC’S team of Engineers researched into a cassava-peeling machine, and came up with an amazing performance. The machine was able to peel 34kg of cassava tubers in less than a minute and this translates into 2.04 tons (about 40 bags) per hour. Foday Melvin Kamara, Managing Director of FINIC said that the machine met their design and test specifications as it could peel with tuber loss almost comparable to hand peeling.  Building on the success of the first design, the FINIC team added a related function to the machine. The machine was further developed to also serve as a grating machine. Even though the machine grates at a slower speed rate than it peels, but it does grater at a speed faster than the conventional cassava grating machines that can be found in most countries of West Africa.  FINIC has removed the burden to buy a cassava grating machine for operation alongside the peeler. This combined peeling and grating machine is revolutionary. In Sierra Leone, cassava is second after rice, but is seen by many as a food supplement that can be transformed into variety of foods like garri, cassava flour, dumbe, acheke, gbordor, just to name a few.  “We can boost our food security by boosting the production and processing of cassava into garri and high quality cassava flour. The imperative is the generation of technologies not only for genetic plant materials but also for mechanization in production and processing” said MD Kamara. In addition to transportation and bad roads, cassava peeling he said is a huge factor in post-harvest losses. An un-mechanized system demands the engagement of a high number of persons who would sit with knives in their hands peeling the whole day with occasional self-inflicted wounds.  An independent data given by Village Hope Enterprises headed by Dr. Jon Bart indicate positive attributes about the machine. In the second trial, they loaded 45kg of tubers into the machine and the machine took only 30 seconds to finish the load.  The tubers were removed and assessed to have a 90% peeling and the loss was a remarkable 15%, which is 2.5% less than loss from hand peeling. A 45kg weight of tubers to be peeled by a hand held knife would last for close to an hour.  “Let your imagination take you wild to figure out the time saving. Also figure out that if you have a piggery farm alongside your cassava flour and garri processing factory, whatever peeling loss will serve as a gain to the pig farm” he added. The machine is powered by a petrol engine of 6.5 horse power, it has capacity to peel 2 tons (40 bags each of 50kg) cassava tubers in an hour and grates cassava at the rate of 1.2 tons per hour. It is also fitted with a water tank with 100 litres (half a drum) capacity for flushing the peels as the tubers are being peeled and all parts that come in contact with the tubers are either made of aluminium or stainless steel. Explaining its relevance to the economy, MD Kamara said that he has often stressed that “we can replace the iron ore economy with cassava production and processing if the leadership steers its mental capacity to technology generation and sees it as a key pillar in boosting agriculture.” High quality cassava flour he said can be mixed with wheat flour to make bread. A percentage mixture comprising 10% of cassava flour can reduce our dollar flight by 10% in importing wheat flour.  The pressure on the dollar will be 10% less and it’s (dollar) escalation will be embattled and “we will win.” It requires the establishment of cassava factories at districts and chiefdoms levels and the matching policies that will entice technology generation to boost production and processing.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday May 13, 2019.

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