The market outlook for cassava is strongly linked to supply and demand in global starch, grain, and energy markets, exposing smallholders to new risks and threats to their livelihoods. Increasing regional and global demand for animal feed, starch products, and biofuel in Asia is driving a process of commercialisation of dryland farming systems throughout Southeast Asia. Smallholders are adapting their farming systems in response to these changing opportunities and constraints. In some cases this involves sharp trade-offs between subsistence and market activities. It is also changing the ways in which communities manage resources and how benefits are shared within communities, with a general tendency to agrarian differentiation. At the same time, there has been significant investment by domestic and foreign companies in securing feedstock through a range of arrangements from contract farming with selected smallholders through to large-scale land concessions and estates. Thus the potential benefits of the cassava boom are not necessarily being realised by smallholders.
There are considerable opportunities to increase the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the cassava industry through better value-chain linkages between smallholders and industry actors that can deliver the dual objectives of industry development and economic growth, on the one hand, and livelihood security and poverty reduction, on the other. The overall aim of this project is to identify the socio-economic conditions under which improved technology and market booms in commercial crops such as cassava can be harnessed to increase the profitability and sustainability of smallholder farming systems in Mainland Southeast Asia and thereby contribute to poverty reduction. The specific objectives, focusing on the potential for smallholder cassava in Laos and Cambodia, are as follows: