|Challenges in Cassava Production|
Cassava is a major source of food and industrial raw material worldwide. It is a source of income and provides livelihood to 100 million people globally (Legg, 1999). FAO reports that the World production of cassava root has increased from 184 million tons in 2002 to 230 million tons in 2008. Of the total production, 99.1 million are grown in Africa, 51.5 million in Asia and 33.2 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that world cassava production will reach 275 million tons by 2020, 60% of which is estimated to come from Africa. This stresses the important role that cassava plays in the African economies. Cassava has been identified as one of the crops that could alleviate poverty in Africa. This is because it does well on poor soils and low rainfall. In addition, it is a perennial that can be harvested for more than two seasons. This wide harvesting window makes it act as a famine reserve. It also offers flexibility to smallholders because it serves as either subsistence or cash crop.
FCI has engaged in different initiatives aimed at increasing cassava production, marketing and income to smallholders. In 2007, for instance, FCI, in conjunction with Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), conducted a research on the production and marketing of cassava in East Africa.
It was established that cassava is largely sold in its raw form. This leads to major post-harvest losses because Cassava is perishable-It loses its freshness after just two days.
The presence of poisonous cyanide compounds in cassavas is another major cause of post-harvest losses. Cassava varieties are often categorized as either sweet or bitter, signifying the absence or presence of toxic levels of cyanogenic glucosides. The sweet variety can produce as little as 20 milligrams of cyanide per kilogram of fresh roots, whereas bitter ones may produce more than 50 times as much (1 g/kg). Cassavas grown during drought are especially high in these toxins. A dose of 40 mg of pure cassava cyanogenic glucoside is sufficient to kill a cow. It can also cause pancreatitis in humans.
For the sweet varieties, cooking is sufficient to eliminate all toxicity. The bitter varieties should first be processed to remove the cyanogenic glucosides, before being used to produce flour.
In West Africa, the bitter variety is to peeled and soaked in water for 3 days to ferment. The roots are then are dried or cooked. In Nigeria and several other West African countries, such as Ghana, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso, the cassavas are usually grated and lightly fried in palm oil to preserve them.
FCI has been actively training farmers within the regional on how to minimize post harvest losses. Some of the techniques it has put forth include: waxing, fermenting and the application of fungicides.
It has also been educating farmers on the benefits of planting disease resistant varieties.
FCI has initiated a project to promote cassava production, encourage the consumption of processed cassava and provide market linkages and public-private sector partnerships.
Similar efforts have since been initiated all over Africa. For example, the New Partnership for Africa's Development launched a Pan-African Cassava Initiative that seeks to boost cassava production, income generation and ultimately, the continent's food security.
Cassava can be cooked and eaten in different forms. However, it must be cooked properly to detoxify it.
They can be eaten boiled.
After boiling, they can be deep fried and eaten as a substitute for French fries.
Dried cassava is eaten In South America as cereals.
The juice of the bitter cassava, when boiled to thick syrup and flavored with spices, is called cassareep, which is used as culinary flavoring in tropical countries.
In Sierra Leone cassava leaves are pounded to fine chaff used with meat or fish to cook palaver sauce. (It is necessary to wash the leaf chaff several times to remove the bitterness.)
Cassava roots can be peeled, chipped, dried and ground into flour which can be used to prepare porridge and foufou, a starchy staple food in Western Africa (and ugali in Kenya-which is consumed as an accompaniment for meat dishes, purées, soups, stews and gravies.)
The flour can also be used to bake cassava cake or bread. The bread is called "La boule Nationale" (the national ball) in French; Bukari in Swahili, and Luku in Kikongo.
Cassava is used as animal feed. It is a good source of roughage for dairy, beef, buffalo, goats, and sheep by either direct feeding or as a protein source in the concentrate mixtures.
The leaves are used to treat hypertension, headache, pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
Cassava can be used to make alcoholic beverages. The English explorer and naturalist Charles Waterton reported in Wanderings in South America (1836) that the natives of Guyana used cassava to make liquor, which they abandoned when rum became available.
Hamilton Rice, in 1913, also remarked on liquor being made from cassava in the Brazilian rainforest.
The Indian tribes in northern Brazil and Surinam – Tiriós and Erwarhoyanas – make a beverage called “sakurá” with the sweet variety of cassava named Yuca. It is the same beverage made by the Jivaro in Ecuador and Peru.
Cassava chips are used to produce ethanol in many countries. Attempts are being made worldwide to increase the use of ethanol as opposed to petroleum. For example, under the Development Plan for Renewable Energy, the Eleventh Five-Year Plan of the People's Republic of China targets to increase the use of ethanol fuel to 2 million tons by 2010. This will be equivalent to a substitute of 10 million tons of petroleum.
Cassava flour is used to manufacturer sugar syrups and adhesives used to glue together plywood.
Challenges in cassava production
Though cassava has massive nutritional and economic potential, farmers in East Africa report the following challenges in its production:
Cassava is harvested by hand, mainly by raising the lower part of the stem and pulling the roots out of the ground, then removing them from the base of the plant. The upper parts of the stems with the leaves are plucked off before harvest.
Cassava has a natural healing process. Any damage to the root triggers a self healing process. The process of separating the root from the main plant causes a dent on the root. Unfortunately, the healing process (which does not stop even after harvesting,) oxidizes and blackens the tubers within two to three days after harvest. This deteriorates them and eventually renders them unpalatable and useless.
To remedy this, FCI has been training farmers on different preservation techniques. These include:
Drying-either as chips or ground into flour.
Freezing-This has faced challenges because most rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa lack electricity. Also, the farmers cannot afford refrigerators.
Some farmers have been resorting to burying the tubers-underground storage. Though used, it may reduce the quality of roots.
Another cause of loss in cassava production is diseases. Brown Streak Disease has been identified as a major threat to Cassava cultivation worldwide.
Once harvested, peeled and stored, pests are reported to infest the stores.
With the foregoing, it is evident that more needs to be done to boost cassava production, commercialization and marketing within the East African region.