Jul 21, 2009

Cassava to be used for food security in Africa

Pokuase, July, 20, GNA - Cassava, a common staple food in Africa, has been identified as the foodstuff to provide food security for Africa, given the agricultural assets and opportunities prevailing on the continent.

This could be achieved by expanding and sustaining on-farm productivity and the profitability of cassava through a USAID funded project, dubbed, "Unleashing the Power of Cassava in response to the food price crisis (UPoCA).

Speaking to the Ghana News agency at the close of a five-day training of trainers programme, Mrs Angela Osei-Safoh, National Project Coordinator, said the country should not be a 'victim' of the food crisis but rather a provider of solutions to it.

The training, which is part of the Project being implemented in seven sub-Saharan African countries, is aimed at maximizing the use of cassava to address food price crises.

Thirty-one Post Harvest Officers, Agric extension Officers, Women in Agricultural Development, District Development Officers, processors and staff of Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from 13 implementing districts in Ashanti and Central regions participated in the training.

Participants were taken through cassava planning, harvesting, processing and packaging.

The two-year project is being implemented in Ghana, Nigeria, DR Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Tanzania with technical support from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Mrs Osei-Sarfoh explained that cassava was chosen because in Africa, it provided a basic daily source of dietary energy. The roots are processed into a wide variety of products such as starch, chips, gari and high quality flour among other consumables, or consumed freshly boiled or raw.

In most cassava-growing countries in Africa, the leaves are also consumed as a green vegetable, which provides protein and vitamins A and B.

"It is envisioned that through the project's interventions and activities, diverse stakeholder groups would take up the technologies for improved cassava production, crop management, product development and trade", she said.

She said the project sought to further increase cassava production in farmers' fields of 12 tonnes per hectare by 30 per cent and reach out to 75,500 beneficiaries across the country with more being women.

This, she said, could be achieved through the distribution of elite varieties and related inputs, dissemination of appropriate integrated crop management techniques to ensure at least 30 per cent increase in root yields and the promotion of entrepreneurship in cassava planting material supply.

Some of the benefits she outlined included rapid mass propagation of improved varieties, mop up seasonal surpluses and added value to the crop, promotion of farm gate processing to increase the shelf life of cassava and building the capacity of farmers in improved cassava production and farm gate processing techniques.

The National Project Coordinator noted that the project would help ensure adequate supply of cassava products at economically-affordable prices to participating districts by making readily available improved cassava varieties, production processes and farm gate processing.

She stressed that through the training and experimental learning, participating communities would increase their knowledge and skills whilst producer groups, and agro-processors especially women and youth be empowered to increase their livelihoods.

Mrs Busie Maziya-Dixon, Crop Utilization Specialists of IITA said as cassava was a carbohydrate, it could be fortified with soyabean, or cowpea to give the desired accompanying protein to serve the nutritional needs of the people.

She said the whole project could also create employment and encourage rural people to stay in the countryside instead of leaving for the cities in search of greener pastures.

"Feasibility studies show that under various economic conditions, profits could be made from producing livestock feed from cassava, as well as starch and ethanol made from cassava chips", she added.

Mr Brobbey Mensah, Ashanti Regional Development Officer of the Project sharing his experience with the GNA said cassava apart from gari and fufu, had over 40 benefits including its medicinal values that needed to be exploited.

He commended IITA for the initiative and urged Ghanaians not to waste cassava but turn it into good use.


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