When we moved to Mtwara, I hadn’t thought I will engage myself in cassava business. But the whole idea came when I saw there was an opportunity in this business and indigenous people were not really doing anything about it despite the availability of the product.
What did Rukia Liyumba do before she became a Cassava processor?
Before becoming a cassava processor, Rukia was a primary school teacher based in Dar es Salaam. In 2011, her husband transferred to Mtwara for work so she moved too.
Why did she decide to get involved in the cassava processing business?
In Dar es Salaam Rukia had a vegetable garden and really enjoyed growing vegetables. So when she got in Mtwara she started looking for farming opportunities. That’s when she realized cassava farming is exactly what she would love to engage herself in.
“When we moved to Mtwara, I hadn’t thought I will engage myself in cassava business. But the whole idea came when I saw there was an opportunity in this business and indigenous people were not really doing anything about it despite the availability of the product”, said Rukia.
What steps did she take to start up her business?
In 2012 she started the business by setting up a cassava farm and later on took training from Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) on processing goods. After the training she started processing cassava at SIDO offices using machines and equipment provided bySIDO. After building her small industry, eventually she was given grating and pressing machines from the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) project.
What was it like in the beginning?
In the beginning it was hard to change the mindset of people who worked with her as most of them were expecting to just succeed without working hard and were not initially committed to the project. She also faced similar challenges when using local equipment to dry the cassava.
“I could not keep people for a long time because they had high expectations. Commitment and dedication was needed but because of poor mindset and lack of commitment it was hard to have employees for a long time,” said Rukia.
What challenges does she still face?
There are many challenges including keeping the machinery operating well, a lack of some equipment and getting enough access to enough water from Mtwara urban. She has also not been able to plant all of the 50 hectors of land with cassava because of the difficulty of finding permanent employees.
Rukia elaborated saying, “there are lots of challenges, but I believe it is going to work. I work hard and I do not wait for anyone to help me. If you believe something is going to work, do not give up and you will get there.”
What help do you need to advance your business?
“Some things that would really help my business is are access to machines like tractors and planters and access to a clean and reliable water source. I could also use help in marketing my business.”