Cassava, also called Manioc or Yuca, is the staple food of around 500 million people around the world. It tolerates drought and low fertility and is primarily grown and eaten by small scale farmers in areas with poor soils or unfavorable climates. Cassava is grown throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of Africa. In many African countries the crop is grown by the native people as a staple food. Cassava requires minimal fertilizer, pesticides and water. Also, because cassava can be harvested anytime from 8 to 24 months after planting, it can be left in the ground as a safeguard against unexpected food shortages and a famine reserve crop.
Cassava greatest asset to the developing world is that it provides a critical source of dietary carbohydrates. In sub-Saharan African Cassava is the main carbohydrate source. Once harvested, cassava deteriorates quickly, so it must be eaten or processed quickly. Bitter varieties of Cassava contain a poison, Glucoside, which can be toxic to humans in high concentrations. Removal of this chemical is accomplished by boiling the root. Glucoside will dissolve at temperatures above 150 degrees. Other techniques to remove the toxin include peeling and grating the root to make a pulp that is then left to ferment slightly before being pressed, dried and roasted. The remaining flour can be used for making bread. It is important to note that Cassava has very little else but carbohydrates. It is essential in areas which cassava is the main food source to supplement the diet with other sources of protein.
Harvesting and Preparation
In Africa Cassava can be prepared in many ways: Dried pieces are ground into flour, graded, fermented, and roasted to produce gari and a porridge called fufu. It is important to ensure that all poisonous substances are removed through boiling or the other processes mentioned above.
Cassava harvesting and preparation is summarized in the images below
Pounding into Fufu
All of the above images are apart of the Africa
Focus project at University of Wisconsin-Madison. http://africafocus.library.wisc.edu/
The following links provide information on some of the projects working to increase the productivity and quality of Cassava cultivation in the developing world.
CGIAR - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research cassava page
Global Cassava Strategy - A Global Strategy for Cassava: Transforming a Traditional Tropical Root Crop.
Restoring Cassava Production in Uganda - An article by Mike Crawley about ongoing efforts to improve cassava production in Uganda
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture - This is a organization that has research projects all over the developing world. This link is to a report on the Integrated management of cassava pests and diseases.
Cassava Information Network - This web site provides a vehicle for transfer of information (statistical and that relating new technology) to a broader cassava network. It also act as a nucleus for broader collaboration between organizations with a common interest - cassava.
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