Nov 18, 2008

News Africa News FAO hails cassava's comeback in Great Lakes region

Nairobi, Kenya - The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Friday hailed the comeback of healthy cassava, one of Africa's principal foodstuffs, to the menu of people in the Great Lakes Region.The cassava "returns " to the region's menu after years of crop losses caused by a devastating virus.

"Having cassava back on the table is of major importance, especially to the region's most vulnerable, who have been hit hard by this year's global food crisis," said Eric Kueneman, chief of FAO's Crop and Grassland Service headquartered in R o me, Italy.

By the last planting season, virus-free cassava planting material had been distributed to some 330,000 smallholders in countries struck by the virus - Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and the improved crop now be n efits some 1.65 million people, the FAO said in a statement.

Kueneman added that boosting the production of local crops like cassava is a pillar of FAO's response to the current food crisis, which threw an additional 75 million people into poverty in 2007 alone.

Each person in Africa eats around 80 kg of cassava per year. Cassava roots can be harvested whenever needed, or left in the ground when farmers are driven from their land, thus making a crucial difference in circumstances of instability, as w hat the Democratic Republic of Congo is now going through.

Kueneman also hailed the achievement as a milestone in the FAO's partnership with the European Union, as the FAO has been co-operating with the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) in making the Great Lakes Region self-su f ficient in cassava production again.

Nairobi - 14/11/2008

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