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 Introduction
 Cassava in historical perspect...
 The small-scale starch factori...
 The cultivation of cassava
 Present problems in cassava...














Title: Cassava cultivation and starch production in an Andean village
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00075679/00001
 Material Information
Title: Cassava cultivation and starch production in an Andean village
Physical Description: 12 leaves : ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Strobosch, Peter
Publication Date: 1976
 Subjects
Subject: Cassava -- Colombia   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Colombia
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Peter Strobosch.
General Note: Typescript.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00075679
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 86078215

Table of Contents
    Introduction
        Page 1
        Some social and economic characteristics of the Cuatro Esquinas area
            Page 1
    Cassava in historical perspective
        Page 2
    The small-scale starch factories
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    The cultivation of cassava
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Present problems in cassava cultivation
        Page 11
        Page 12
Full Text






CASSAVA CULTIVATION AND STARCH PRODUCTION IN AN ANDEAN VILLAGE

PeteA Sotrbosch


Introduction

This paper is based on "A socio-economic study of cassava and cassava starch

production in an Andean village in Colcnbia", Mimeograph, CIAT, 1976. I

carried out this study as a trainee of CIAT in the period September 1975-

January 1976. At that time I was a B.Sc. student of the Department of Rural

Sociology of the Tropics and Subtropics at the Agricultural University in

Wageningen, The Netherlands. The purpose of this study was to describe the

processes of cassava cultivation and starch production. Being a budding

sociologist at that time, it certainly lacks analytical depth. 'Though my

knowledge and ideas have developed over time, I nevertheless preferred not

to include new views or comments, as this might introduce a bias into this

paper.


Some social and economic characteristics of the Cuatro Esquinas area

The village of Cuatro Esquinas is located in the occidental mountain-range

of the Andes, at a distance of about 35 km southwest from Popayan, the

capital of the Department of Cauca. It is one of the 33 sub-munipalities

of the municipality of El Tambo. This village is located about 7 km north

of Cuatro Esquinas. It is the only service centre in the municipality.

Services granted by El Tambo are: the market, held twice a week; a little

cattle market, held once a week; shopping services; municipal and judicial

institutions; a secondary school; a church; festivals and agrarian insti-

tutions like the Agrarian Credit Bank and the Federation of Coffee Growers.


The village of Cuatro Esquinas consists of no more than 44 households; only










CASSAVA CULTIVATION AND STARCH PRODUCTION IN AN ANDEAN VILLAGE

PeteA Sotrbosch


Introduction

This paper is based on "A socio-economic study of cassava and cassava starch

production in an Andean village in Colcnbia", Mimeograph, CIAT, 1976. I

carried out this study as a trainee of CIAT in the period September 1975-

January 1976. At that time I was a B.Sc. student of the Department of Rural

Sociology of the Tropics and Subtropics at the Agricultural University in

Wageningen, The Netherlands. The purpose of this study was to describe the

processes of cassava cultivation and starch production. Being a budding

sociologist at that time, it certainly lacks analytical depth. 'Though my

knowledge and ideas have developed over time, I nevertheless preferred not

to include new views or comments, as this might introduce a bias into this

paper.


Some social and economic characteristics of the Cuatro Esquinas area

The village of Cuatro Esquinas is located in the occidental mountain-range

of the Andes, at a distance of about 35 km southwest from Popayan, the

capital of the Department of Cauca. It is one of the 33 sub-munipalities

of the municipality of El Tambo. This village is located about 7 km north

of Cuatro Esquinas. It is the only service centre in the municipality.

Services granted by El Tambo are: the market, held twice a week; a little

cattle market, held once a week; shopping services; municipal and judicial

institutions; a secondary school; a church; festivals and agrarian insti-

tutions like the Agrarian Credit Bank and the Federation of Coffee Growers.


The village of Cuatro Esquinas consists of no more than 44 households; only







-2-


13 households possess land, the other 31 households earn their living mainly

by trading and wage labour. Around the village, are found the farms, scat-

tered in the mountains. Most farms are not very accessible. The most impor-

tant means of transportation are horses and males.


The area can be characterized by having a "minifundio" structure. The major-

ity of the farmers are small landowners. Moreover, the number of landless

labourers is very large, which means a cheap supply of labour. Daywages

range between $20 and $25. -


Not only regarding the location of the farms, but also.from a social point

of view the area is atomized. Individualism prevails. Everybody goes his

own way without bothering other people. The negative consequence of this

is that the farmers hardly discuss their mutual problems. This situation

is doubly serious, as front the part of the Agrarian institutions in El

Tambo the interest to help the farmers in this isolated area by means of

extension is minima.


Cuatro Esquinas is located in a temperature zone. The altitude is about

1300 meters. Though variable, we may discern two rainy seasons: February

through May and September through December.


The two most important cash crops are cassava an coffee. In addition,

plaintains, bananas, maize, beans and sugar-cane are cultivated.


Cassava in historical perspective

People started to grow cassava as a cash crop in the middle of the forties.

Before that time coffee, and, especially, sugar-cane were the main cash


/One US dollar is about $33 (Colombian pesos) January, 1976.






-3-


crops. The latter crop was used for the production of "panela" -pieces of raw,

unrefined sugar- in small-scale sugarmills.

Those who started to cultivate cassava in big quantities were outsiders, main-

ly people from the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Narifio. They also intro-

duced the use of oxen for the preparation of the land, which was formerly done

by hand.

Initially only a small part of the native population adopted the cultivation

of cassava as a cash crop. This cassava was transported by mule to El Tambo,

sold to traders and put on fresh markets in Popayan and Call. The majority

continued to grow cassava mainly for family needs.

Between 1955 and 1965 however many farmers cut down their sugar-cane and

started to cultivate cassava instead. Besides the small profitability of

"panela" production, which may have been due to expanding cane production in

Valle del Cauca two other factors explain this transition from sugar-cane

to cassava. The most important reason has been the introduction of small-

scale starch factories in the middle of the fifties. In the second place

must be mentioned the construction of the road between El Tambo and Cuatro

Esquinas in 1965. The latter consisted only of a widening of the muletrack,

but nevertheless made the area accessible for jeeps, buses and trucks, thus

allowing easier access to cassava and starch markets.


The small-scale starch factories

It has indeed been in the decade after the construction of the road that the

majority of the 24 factories which now exist in the sub-municipality of Cua-

tro Esquinas have been built. Factories like these already existed in Pal-

mira, located in the Department of Valle del Cauca and near Mondcno, a

village located in the North of Cauca. When the capacity of the factories







-4-


exceeded cassava production in the zone, factory owners had to look for other

markets to buy their cassava, among others the Cuatro Esquinas area. Others

decided to move elsewhere and started to build factories in the latter area.

When the economic profitability became clear some native people also.took

over their example.


The starch factories soon became a very important market for cassava. The

constant demand for cassava considerably stimulated its production and the

area planted with cassava was quickly expanded. Culturally the factories

broadenend the frame of reference of the farmers and caused a rapid transition

from a mainly subsistence towards a market orientation of cassava culti-

vation. As we shall see this process did not involve a major change in agri-

cultural practices. Cassava continued to be cultivated in a traditional. way.


Regarding the technology used for the extraction of starch two different types

of factories can be discerned although both are relatively small-scale opera-

tions. In the most simple type of factory the cassava is peeled, washed and

rasped, and then strained by hand in a cloth that has been tightened at a

wooden framework above a sedimentation tank. Water is continuously added

The maximum processing capacity of this manual type of factory is 600 kg of

cassava per day.


In the mechanical type of factory the cassava is strained in a centrifuge-

like machine, which slowly rotates on a horizontal axis. This machine is

driven by a little petrol engine. In these factories a maximum of 1200 kg

of cassava can be processed per day. However, because of shortage of cas-

sava, in the research period even the mechanical factories did not process

more than 600 to 750 kg of cassava per day.







-5-


In dry seasons the lack of a sufficient water supply may limit starch produc-

tion in both types of factories.


-The starch factories are not very labour intensive, though on a regional scale

it is probably the most labour intensive form of starch production. The most

labour intensive activity is the peeling of cassava. This is done manually,

mostly by female family labour, in fewer cases by hired women and girls. It

takes one person one and a half to two hours to peel a 75 kg sack of cassava.

All the other production activities are carried out by one to two persons, in

most cases a hired labourer. He is in charge of the washing, rasping, strain-

ing, sedimentation, cleaning, fermenting, drying, pulverizing and packing

processes.


Starch production is regarded as the most profitable economic activity within

the area. As 25% of the fresh cassava is converted into starch, a maximun of

150 kg of starch per day can be produced in the manual starch factories, where-

as in mechanical factories this maximun is 300 kg of starch./ The greater

production capacity of the latter is however largely negated by the scarcity

of cassava. I estimated that during the research period the average amount of

starch produced- per day in both types of factories was about 100 kg. As net

profits are $274 per 37.5 kg of starch,2/ this relatively low production

nevertheless means a daily income of about $730 for the factory owner.


/ n all 8 factories which were included in my study, they gave me exactly
the same figure of 25%.

SSee for a benefit-cost calculation of starch production my mimeograph "A
socio-economic study of cassava and cassava starch production in an Andean
village in Colombia", CIAT, 1976, p.72.






- 6 -


Assuming that on an average only 20 of the 24 factories are producing starch

and that a factory is producing 500 kg weekly, I estimate that the total weekly

production of these 24 factories will be about ten tons of starch. Respectively

about 33% and 11% of the total week production is bought by two intermediate

traders who live in the village. They buy the starch frma the factory owners

for $240 per 12,5 kg and sell to trucker-buyers for 250 per 12,5 kg. The other

56% of the weekly production is bought directly frcm factory owners by these

truckers-buyers for $240 per 12,5 kg. Only six trucker-buyers are operating

in the area. They come from Popayan (2) Monodomo, Call (2) and Palmira and

also sell the starch in Popayan, Call, Palmira and even in Bogota to wholesalers,

retailers, grocer's shops and bakeries. Their profits are large: selling prices

per 12.5 kg of starch are $270 in Popayan, $280 in Cali and Palmira, and $310

in Bogota. They often lend money, with or without interest to the factory

owners in order to try to insure themselves of a sufficient amount of starch.

Competition among them is strong. Sometimes the two largest trucker-buyers paid

$5 to $10 more than the others to be able to buy a truck-load fall of starch.


The cultivation of cassava

Cassava is mainly found on small plots, with most plots ranging between 0.5

and 2.0 hectares.


Regarding land-tenancy it is striking that much cassava is cultivated by share
2/
croppers on a cost share lease basis.- This may result from the fact


2/ In my sample of 27 farmers, 16 farmers and landowners, 9 farmers are share-
croppers and two farmers are tenants. Sharecropping seems to be a common
characteristic of cassava production in Colcmbia. Rafael Orlando Diaz D.
and Per Pinstrup-Andersen found that 29% of the 283 cassava farmers'they
visited were sharecroppers ("Descripci6n agro-econ&mica del process de
producci6n de yuca en Colombia", CIAT, 1977, p. B-13). This fact is not
unimportant as it may not be unreasonable to hypothesize that sharecropping
is negatively correlated'with the adoption of new technology.







-7-


that cassava is the only annual cash crop in the area. For the many landless

labourers sharecropping is one of the few possibilities to increase their

income. Moreover, as land is scarce and larger landowners are not very will-

ing to lease land, also for landowners sharecropping is one of the most feasible
3/
ways to expand their cassava production.-


After the fallow period brush and woodland are cut down with "machetes". Ac-

cording to the farmers the shortening of the fallow period has decreased soil

quality considerably. Ten years ago farmers used to leave their lands as

fallow for five to six years. At the xmnent the .fallow period is no more than

three years. They also say that his is one of the main reasons of the decrease

in yields. Before yields were three to four times as large as at. the moment.

After this initial manual land clearing the soil is ploughed with oxen. The

majority of the farmers grow three consecutive crops of cassava in the same

fields. Hardly any farmers practice crop rotation. Some plough the soil with

oxen for every crop, other plow only for the first crop. In the latter case

they prepare the land manually for the second and third crop. Mechanical land

preparation is not possible because of the inaccessibly of the fields, the

often steep slopes and the usually rough surface of the fields. Formerly

farmers used to plant in September. This habit was abandoned after the starch

factories began to be the major market for cassava. These created a constant

demand for cassava during the whole year. This meant that farmers had to

spread the sowing dates of cassava in order to meet the daily cassava needs

of the starch factories. Nevertheless much cassava is still planted in

September, preferably with the new moon as this has according to the farmers


/ Of our 9 sharecroppers 4 of them are landowners.






-8-


a positive influence on its growth.


Years ago farmers used to intercrop cassava much more than at present. The

main reason for this is that as cassava became more and more important as a

cash crop, especially during recent years when prices went up considerably,

the intercrops started to seriously compete for income.!/ The most feelings

common intercropping systems are: cassava-plaintain; cassava-maize; cassava-

beans and cassava-maize-beans. Most farmers weed three times during the

growing cycle, at about two weeks and three and six months after the sowing

date. The weedings are mostly performed by hired day labourers, in same cases

by contract.


The use of chemical technology is limited to the application of insecticies,

mainly against ants.


Because of several personal, and economic. reasons herbicides are not used:

a) Present day wages of $20 make a substitution of chemical for manual weed

control highly unlikely; b) The farmers do not know if chemical weed control

has an impact on yields; c) If they do believe that herbicide use increases

production, they do not know in which measure it increases production; d)

Samo farmers think that the application of herbicides may decrease production

instead of increasing it, as they believe that herbicides damage the quality

of the soil; e) The farmers do not know how to apply herbicides properly.


Similar reasons also exist for the non-use of fertilizers: a) Traditionally

neither their grandfathers nor their fathers used fertilizer; b) Lack of ca-

pital; c) Feelings of insecurity: farmers do not know how far the application


4/ Prices of a 150 kg load of cassava were: $150 in 1973, $280 in November
1974, $325 in February 1975, $400 in the period July 1975-January 1976.






-9-


of fertilizers increases yields; d) Farmers lack the knowledge. how to apply

fertilizers properly.


On the other hand sate factors which are related to the production of starch

appeared to be prohibitive for the application of fertilizers: a) Farmers,

but especially the factory owners think that the application of fertilizers

diminishes the amount of starch of the tuber; b) Also they think that the

starch weighs less if fertilizers are used; c) Fertilizer use decreases the

quality of the starch, as during the sedimentation process the starch does not

separate well from the other elements of the tuber.'


This negative altitude towards the use of fertilizers is based on experience

with fertilized cassava that has been bought near El Tambo scme years ago.

Since that tine the producers of starch do not buy fertilized cassava, as it

decreases both the total amount of starch as well as the quality of the starch,

and therefore their income.


In the Cuatro Esquinas area cassava has a growing cycle of one year. Only

in case of an urgent cash need farmers sell their cassava a few month earlier

when it is still on the field. The opposite, postponing the harvest, also

happens sometimes, which has a saving function for the farmers.


Sometimes the cassava is harvested by hired labourers. However, after the

starch factories began to be the major market for cassava selling the cassa-

va to the factory owners when it is still on the field became the most common

way of harvesting. Though farmers know that it may be more profitable to

harvest the crop themselves, they nevertheless prefer to sell their cassava

when it is still on the field. This saves the costs and time for harvesting,







10 -



packing and transportation, which can be used alternatively. Moreover the

farmer does not have to worry whether or not the harvest is done carefully,

as often harvesters leave tubers in the ground. The factory owner harvests

each day only the amount needed for his factory. Only plots which are rela-

tively small and located for away from the factory are harvested at one time.

This contrasts with earlier years when more cassava was sold to traders and

therefore harvested at one time.


Besides the small amount of cassava that is used for home consumption nearly

all the cassava is sold to the starch factories.. In earlier years when the

local demand of the factories was less than at the moment, a substantial

amount was sold to traders and put on markets elsewhere, mainly Popaygn and

Call. Another portion was bought by starch factories from Mondomo and Palmi-

ra. Now that cassava is also scarce in the latter area, only very little

reaches outside markets.


Credit facilities are limited. In my sample of 27 farmers only 4 of them

received credit from the Agrarian Credit Bank. Others either do not need

credit, are not credit worthy, or do not want an institutional loan. The

Agrarian Credit Bank does not have a good reputation among farmers. Because

ot its red-tape it often takes two to three months before one gets his loan.

Moreover farmers have to travel three times to El Tambo to arrange the loan,

which means extra expenses and a loss of time. It is very difficult to get

an exact'idea of how many farmers receive credit frcm informal sources, as

most people are not very willing to talk about this topic. Some farmers

receive credit from friends or relatives, but did not say how much and for

which purposes. Factory owners never lend money to cassava farmers. Strange







- 11-


enough factory owners often borrow part of their working capital fran the

traders in starch.


Present problems in cassava cultivation

The major problem in the area is the growing scarcity of cassava. On the one

hand the demand of the starch factories for cassava starts to exceed the supply

of raw material. On the other hand this scarcity is due to a decrease in

cassava yields. This is caused by two factors:the frog skin root disease

and the deterioration of soil fertility.


Near Cuatro Esquinas the frog skin root disease is not yet a problem. But

in a warmer zone called El Puente, located about a half hour's drive south

from Cuatro Esquinas, this disease seriously affects yields. In this area

some of our 24 starch factories are located. Another consequence of this

disease is that farmers who found affected plants on their fields abstain

from sowing these fields again with cassava. So the cassava area becomes

less. Also non-affected plants coming fran a field in which even a few di-

seased plants were found are not wanted as planting material. This results

in a scarcity of planting material, which in its turn means that at the

moment planting material for the first crop has to be bought, whereas former-

ly it was given by neighbours, relatives or friends.


An increase of production by an expansion of the cassava area seems not

very likely. There is very little uncultivated land left, most farmers

lack resources to buy land and opportunities to rent land are hardly

existent.


On the other hand an increase of production per hectare seems also difficult








- 12 -


to achieve.


The adoption of fertilizer use is out of the question as long as starch produ-

cers refuse to buy fertilized cassava. But even if they accepted fertilized

cassava, various constraints would hamper the adoption of fertilizer use and

other agricultural productivity raising activities.


The major social constraint is a lack of capital of most farmers. Intitu-

tional constraints are the non-availability of institutional credit for most

farmers and the ccnplete absence of technical assistance.


As personal constraints of the farmers themselves must be mentioned their

traditional outlook on agriculture, feelings of uncertainty regarding the

profitability of the adoption of productivity raising agricultural practices,

lack of knowledge and last but not least their distrust towards governmental

or semi-governmental agrarian institutions.


So yields continue to decrease and the area impoverishes. Nevertheless most

farmers view this reality as what will be,will-be. Given the above mentioned cons -

traints varieties with a high content of starch might certainly play an impor-

tant role in improving the "position of both farmer and starch producer. How-

ever, also probably cheap and simple agricultural productivity raising practices

would have to be introduced to tackle the problems of soil fertility and de-

creasing yields. Or perhaps better said: These practices should introduce

themselves as it might very well be that this technology in these types of

areas should not count on the help of credit or extension services.




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