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Miller Lite meets tapioca, and creates opportunity for African farmers

Ever finished a bowl of tapioca and thought “Boy, if they ever brewed that into a beer, I’d buy a six pack!” Monster brewer SABMiller (which makes Miller Lite, other Miller products, and a ton of other beers) now has you covered: their new Impala lager is made with 70% cassava, tapioca’s main ingredient. But, no, it’s not a gimmick to rope in pudding lovers; rather, Impala represents an effort by the conglomerate “to create a portfolio of high-quality, affordable beers made using locally-sourced raw materials for lower income consumers in Africa.”

Yep, SABMiller believes there’s a market for cassava beer in Africa. Perhaps more importantly, though, the company has figured out that many small farmers grow this native crop, but it only provides subsistence for them and their families: cassava goes bad pretty quickly. The company has partnered with the Dutch Agricultural Development and Trading Company (aka DADTCO) to create mobile units that go straight to farms to process cassava that might otherwise be lost. The crop gets used for a product that potential customers seem to want (yep, they drink beer in Africa, too!), and small-scale farmers get a market for their crop that will be there when they need it.

The beer will be made by Mozambique’s Cervejas de Moçambique (a SABM subsidiary), and sold there; don’t expect to see it on the shelves at the 7-11 anytime soon. It’s one project of several in the company’s Farming Better Futures project: others are exploring the potential of locally-available materials in Uganda, South Sudan, and Tanzania.

So, what do you think: would you try cassava beer? Do you think this is a viable path forward to greater economic empowerment of African farmers? Share your thoughts.

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Image credit: SABMiller