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The Cassava Transformation: Africa's Best-Kept Secret

Felix I. Nweke
Dunstan S. C. Spencer
John K. Lynam
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 273
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  • Book Info
    The Cassava Transformation
    Book Description:

    Cassava is Africa's "poverty fighter" and second most important food crop. This book discusses Cassava's real role and traces research over the past 65 years. The "Cassava transformation" that is now underway in Africa has changed this traditional, reserve crop to a high-yield cash crop. However, Cassava is being neglected by governments and donor agencies because of myths and half-truths about its nutritional value and role in farm systems.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-283-1
    Subjects: Technology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Cassava and Africa’s Food Crisis
    (pp. 1-18)

    Sub-Saharan Africa (hereafter Africa) is a continent in crisis; it is racked with hunger, poverty, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Africa is also the region with the fastest population growth, the most fragile natural resource base, and the weakest set of agricultural research and extension institutions. However, when African nations started to regain their independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they were self-sufficient in food production and leading exporters of cocoa, coffee, rubber, sisal, groundnuts (peanuts), and palm oil, respectively. By contrast, Asia was the epicenter of the world’s food crisis in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Africa became a...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Myths and Half-Truths
    (pp. 19-34)

    Forty years ago W. O. Jones (1959) reported that cassava was a controversial crop in Africa and the subject of heated disagreement among academic specialists. The advocates of cassava praised it because it produced the largest number of calories per hectare of any crop and could be grown on poor soils and withstand severe attacks of drought, pests, and diseases. These attributes explain why many colonial governments encouraged and, in some cases, forced smallholders to grow the crop.

    At the same time, however, many critics pointed out that cassava often contains lethal quantities of cyanogens (prussic acid), which can kill...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Cassava’s Multiple Roles
    (pp. 35-46)

    Cassava plays a number of different but equally important roles in African development, depending on the stage of the cassava transformation in a particular country. Among these roles are: famine reserve, rural food staple, cash crop, urban food staple, industrial raw material, and livestock feed. However, the bulk of cassava production in Africa is consumed as food. After accounting for waste, 93 percent of Africa’s cassava production in the mid-1990s was consumed as food, 6 percent was used as livestock feed, and only 1 percent was used as industrial raw material. By contrast, 48 percent of the cassava production in...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Production Overview
    (pp. 47-66)

    In the early 1960s, Brazil was the world’s leading cassava producer, while Africa accounted for 40 percent of world production. However, by the early 1990s, Africa produced half of the total world cassava output and Nigeria had replaced Brazil as the leader in cassava production (FAOSTAT). Two forces explain this dramatic growth in cassava. First, demand for cassava has expanded because of rapid population growth, while poverty has deepened, encouraging consumers to search for cheaper sources of calories in Africa. Second, the supply of cassava has expanded because genetic research and better agronomic practices have boosted cassava yields, especially in...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Genetic Research and the TMS Revolution
    (pp. 67-84)

    African farmers and public-sector researchers have worked together in the genetic improvement of cassava which culminated in the release of the high-yielding TMS varieties in Nigeria in the late 1970s. The farmers’ contribution started from the time they began to plant cassava in the sixteenth century. Farmers field-tested varieties with various attributes and exchanged these varieties among themselves and across wide areas of Africa. Government cassava research was initiated in the 1920s by the British colonial government in East and West Africa; by the French in West Africa; and by the Belgian government in Central Africa. The research agenda was...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER 6 Agronomic Practices
    (pp. 85-100)

    We have shown in chapter 5 that the development of high-yielding cassava varieties represents a powerful but incomplete engine of growth of the cassava industry. Ultimately, the adoption and spread of high-yielding varieties will be influenced by the development of improved agronomic practices and labor-saving harvesting technology. This chapter draws on the COSCA findings to discuss the evolution of the following agronomic practices: length of fallow period; quality of planting material, plant density (plant spacing) and planting date; cropping pattern (intercropping or mono-cropping); labor use; and cassava harvesting. The analyses in this chapter will show that farmers adopt profitable agronomic...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Diffusion of TMS Varieties
    (pp. 101-114)

    In chapter 5, we concluded that TMS varieties are superior to local varieties in terms of yield, earliness of bulking, and resistance to pests and diseases. The TMS varieties are also at least as good as the local varieties in terms of cyanogen content, ease of processing, cooking quality of fresh roots, and the quality of processed products such asgari. This chapter examines the factors responsible for the rapid diffusion of the TMS varieties in Nigeria and the delayed diffusion of the varieties in Ghana and Uganda. We shall address the puzzle as to why there was a sixteen-year...

  14. CHAPTER 8 The Preparation of Five Cassava Products
    (pp. 115-128)

    Both cassava leaves and roots are prepared as food by different methods in different places in Africa. Simple preparation methods have evolved over time to eliminate cyanogens from cassava roots and leaves in order to make them safe for consumption. These methods are also effective in removing water from cassava roots, which, in turn, extends the shelf-life of cassava and reduces transportation and marketing costs.

    There are five common groups of cassava products: fresh roots, dried roots, pasty products, granulated products, and cassava leaves.¹ This chapter examines the evolution of the five cassava products and shows that the traditional methods...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. CHAPTER 9 Mechanized Processing
    (pp. 129-140)

    We pointed out in chapters 5 and 6 that farmers in Nigeria who planted the TMS varieties had difficulties in recruiting labor for harvesting and manual processing. In order to eliminate hand pounding and reduce processing costs, research has been carried out in Nigeria and several other countries to develop mechanized processing machines. In this chapter we shall trace the evolution of public and private attempts to develop improved cassava processing machines. We shall show that private sector smiths, welders, and mechanics have been more successful in developing cost-effective machines than have researchers in government research institutes.

    There are three...

  17. CHAPTER 10 Gender Surprises
    (pp. 141-152)

    The gender debate mushroomed in Africa in the 1970s following the publication of Esther Boserup’s influentialWomen’s Role in Economic Development(1970). Boserup, a Danish social scientist, provided an array of evidence to show that women in developing countries play significant roles in agricultural and rural development and that Africa was the region of female farming par excellence. She reported that in many African tribes, nearly all the tasks connected with food production are carried out by women.¹ Boserup drew on eighteen anthropological village studies and concluded that women in Africa often “do more than half of the agricultural work; in...

  18. CHAPTER 11 Consumption
    (pp. 153-166)

    Cassava is a major source of calories for roughly two out of every five Africans.¹ However, many international agencies and bilateral donors are hesitant to extend loans and grants to African nations to help them increase the production of root crops such as cassava because of the long held wrong belief that cassava is an “inferior good,” that is, that the per capita consumption of cassava declines as per capita income increases. For example, soon after International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) was established in 1975, it reported that “since these root crops require much larger bulk to provide calories...

  19. CHAPTER 12 New Uses for Cassava: A Nigerian Case Study
    (pp. 167-184)

    We pointed out in chapter 1 that Nigeria is the most advanced of the six COSCA countries in the cassava transformation (table 1.1). Nigeria is now poised to move to the next stage, namely the feed and industrial raw material stage. Yet the transformation will not continue unless new markets are identified to absorb the increase in cassava production. The wide-scale adoption of TMS varieties and the resulting increase in yields have shifted the problem of the Nigerian cassava industry from supply (production) to demand issues, such as finding new uses for cassava in livestock feed and industries. Yet efforts...

  20. CHAPTER 13 The Cassava Transformation: Synthesis
    (pp. 185-202)

    Africa’s food crisis is a stubborn problem. Africa became a net food importer in the early 1970s, and food production grew at half of the population growth rate from 1970 to 1985. Africa’s population is expected to double to 1.2 billion by 2020, and its urban population will grow at a faster rate. The average per capita GNP in Africa in the year 2000 was US$480 (World Bank 2000). Many countries have been destabilized by civil strife, authoritarian regimes, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Yet the African food crisis is rooted in the mass poverty of Africans and the low and...

  21. APPENDIX 1: Methods of the COSCA Study
    (pp. 203-214)
  22. APPENDIX 2: List of COSCA Collaborators
    (pp. 215-218)
  23. APPENDIX 3: List of COSCA Reports
    (pp. 219-222)
  24. APPENDIX 4: Demand Function Specifications
    (pp. 223-226)
  25. Notes
    (pp. 227-238)
  26. References
    (pp. 239-258)
  27. About the Authors
    (pp. 259-260)
  28. Index
    (pp. 261-273)