Cassava or manioc (Manihot esculenta) is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and has much ability to withstand difficult growing conditions.
Cassava is one of the most drought-tolerant crops. It is a starchy root tuber, native to South America and serves as a major source of calories and carbohydrates for people in developing countries.
Analysts believe that the most commonly consumed part of cassava is the root, which can be eaten whole, grated or ground into flour to make bread and crackers. They note that cassava root is the raw material for tapioca and ‘garri’ a staple food in Nigeria.
A Food Biochemist and Chief Executive of the So Tastee Cakes and Pastries, Mr Emmanuel Osiname, believes that individuals with food allergies can benefit from using cassava root in cooking and baking because it is gluten-free. He, however, advises that the cassava root must be dried, cooked and processed before eaten.
According to the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with current annual output of about 54 million metric tonnes. C:AVA made the observation in its training manual on the use of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) in confectioneries. It is, however, worried that Nigeria does not contribute meaningfully in terms of value added in global trade.
C:AVA, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates and targeted at boosting value addition in cassava and incomes of farmers, notes that over 90 per cent of the annual output is consumed as human food with little quantity targeted for industrial use.
C:AVA programme, currently in its second phase, raises hope that Nigeria will reap more cassava benefits if it finds industrial utilisation for the crop.
The C:AVA Programme Manager in Nigeria, Prof. Sanni Lateef, is also dissatisfied that cassava has received relatively little attention from researchers in comparison to the dominant food crops of the green revolution – wheat, rice and maize.
Lateef, also a lecturer in the Food Science and Technology Department of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, is of the opinion that the major challenge to cassava utilisation is acceptability as a commercial crop, as it is considered a food security crop because it is produced on a subsistence level. Lateef says farmers began to transit into commercial production of cassava only in the last 10 or 15 years.
“The major challenge of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) is its availability and obtaining the right quality after processing. “There is a need for more processors of the crop,” he says, blaming inadequate processors on low profitability from unfavourable market.
The programme manager urges that processors should adopt good manufacturing practices and ensure the flour is supplied to the public. He raises hope that efforts are underway to rectify the issues and find ways to capitalise on cassava’s strengths (high productivity, tolerance of poor soils and low rainfall, and resistance to pests and diseases) and improve its major shortcomings (rapid postharvest deterioration) and cyanide content.
At a stakeholders’ workshop organised by the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) in collaboration with Cassava: Adding Value for Africa II (C:AVA II) in Lagos recently, Prof. Gloria Elemo, Director-General of FIIRO, emphasised that cassava would be the key to Nigeria’s food security and industrial revolution.
Elemo, a scientist, believes that Nigeria’s inability to utilise the God-given raw material has cost it a lot in terms of development, foreign exchange earnings and industrial growth. The scientist seeks 10 per cent to 20 per cent cassava inclusion in confectioneries, arguing that Nigeria no longer faces quality-related issues in cassava, given the level of research by FIIRO on the crop.
“It is my prayer that the legislation of cassava flour inclusion in wheat flour for bread and confectioneries will become a reality, given the investment and commitment made by all stakeholders,” Elemo says.
According to her, researches over the years have confirmed that HQCF inclusion in wheat flour is safe and have foreign exchange, wealth, job and growth potential. The director-general is convinced that HQCF is odourless and free from impurities such as sand and stones.
Mrs Folusho Olaniyan, Programme Director of Agra Innovate Expo and Conferences, is of the view that inclusion of HQCF into confectioneries offers up to N3.5 trillion opportunities for processors, farmers and other players in the value chain.
She argues that the opportunities are up to that amount because daily consumption of wheat-based confectioneries is estimated at N9.506 billion and an attempt to replace it with more healthy cassava flour will yield N3.469 trillion each year for players in the value chain.
“The Nigerian population is 196 million. If 97 per cent of the population is between the ages of 15 years and 64 years, it implies that 190.12 million of the population eats any of bread, chin chin, wrapped sausage or noodles daily. Based on the assumption that a portion size is N50 in the average, the potential market per day in Nigeria is N9.506 billion. It is important we let people know that cassava has more health benefits,” Olaniyan urges.
Mr Adebosola Oladeinde-Opeodu, Deputy Director, C:AVA II, reveals that there are other areas cassava can be used.
“In C:AVA II, we also focus on cassava as starch, cassava as ethanol, cassava as animal or livestock or poultry feed. With that, we are telling Nigerians that there are many opportunities and areas where they can use flour. There are other areas where they can get income from cassava outside the traditional use of it for ‘fufu’ and ‘garri’. It is an opportunity for confectioneries to uptake over N9 billion in this country,’’ she says.
A scientist with FIIRO, Dr Lekan Ashiru, reveals that the institute and C:AVA have done an extensive work on the use of cassava peels as substrate for growing mushrooms.
Ashiru is satisfied that technologies have been developed by research institutes and universities in Nigeria to ensure that edible mushrooms are cultivated for local consumption and export, from agricultural and industrial wastes such as cassava peels.
The research efforts on cassava is not limited to FIIRO, C:AVA and FUNAAB. The Ibadan-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is not left out. According to the Country Representative of ILRI, Dr Tunde Amole, the institute is exploring and exploiting utilisation of cassava.
Amole, a scientist, observes that due to high cultivation of cassava in Nigeria, a lot of wastes are generated as peels. Amole says much processed cassava tubers are generated as cassava peels which are mostly wasted on refuse dumps while only an insignificant proportion is fed to livestock. The scientist believes that about 23 per cent of processed cassava constitutes peels which in turn becomes wastes.
He says ILRI is collaborating with the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), an initiative of the AfDB, to promote the use of High Quality Cassava Peel (HQCP) as a feed ingredient for the livestock industry in Nigeria.
Amole argues that HQCP is a competitive substitute for maize in livestock feed as it is economical to use, even if maize prices fall by 50 per cent and HQCP production cost increase by 20 per cent. He is worried that drying of cassava peels is a big challenge in cassava processing, as peels not dried are heaped at markets, polluting the environment.
“Attempts to eliminate cassava peels through natural decomposition and burning have proved unsuccessful. Cassava peels have long been feed for livestock such as pigs and goats but now instead of having heaps of dried or drying cassava, there is a new technology for processing the peels,’’ he discloses.
According to the country representative, apart from the new technology, the same equipment used for processing garri (cassava flakes) can be used to produce the HQCP. He, however, explains that HQCP is an ingredient and not a complete feed. The scientist says cassava peel is still low in protein and fats but research is ongoing to increase the content in the way its hydrocyanide content has been resolved.
Analysts call for more efforts in promoting HQCF in confectioneries and encouraging HQCP as a livestock feed ingredient to open greater opportunities for cassava processors, farmers and all other players in the value chain.
Fadare writes for News Agency of Nigeria.