Cassava also known as Manihot esulenta, is a popular crop in Africa. Its popularity goes beyond the shores of the continent, as almost every corner of the world make use of cassava and it is considered the third largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize.
Although, this crop is well known worldwide, people seem not to value it so much. It is therefore important to write this article as an eye opener to the importance of cassava, vis-à-vis its economic advantage and how it can be successfully cultivated.
Africa is a continent blessed with good natural soil, friendly weather and human resources that are readily available to carryout basic functions of agriculture. Many within the continent have access to possess land, massive enough to cultivate series of crops for consumption and commercial purposes. However, the Africans still wallow in poverty, simply because most of these free gifts of nature at the disposal of the people are not well harnessed. It is even common to see free acres of lands lying fallow without any concrete things being done about it. This is an issue that require urgent attention by all, hence the reason(s) which inspire this article. One of the crops that could be cultivated in Africa that can help to put food on the table and money in the pocket is Cassava.
PERIOD OF GERMINATION:
Cassava takes about ten (10) months to grow and mature, as it can be harvested any time from then, but it should not be left unharvested for more than two years, else it would rotten in the soil and spoil.
CONDITION FOR GROWING CASSAVA:
Cassava is a tuber crop that can suit almost every condition of the soil. But, for profitable harvesting, one can adopt these measures as follows; Cassava can be grown on most soils, preferably light soils or deep well drained loamy soils.
- It is drought resistant and therefore can grow on poor soil.
- It cannot stand water logging as this causes the tubers to rot.
METHOD OF PROPAGATION:
Cassava is propagated just like other tuber species by cutting the stem into sections of approximately 15cm and should be planted prior to wet season. According to REAP Teaching Leaflet, intending cassava farmers can adopt the following measures in getting the best and healthy cassava for harvesting;
- Choose cuttings from plant that have dark green smooth leaves, and not from those with curled yellow leaves. This is because stems with dark green leaves would bring forth healthy cassava during harvesting, while that with yellow leaves signified the unhealthy condition of the cassava.
- Choose the cutting in old cassava field and cut the good ones ready there so that you would not have to carry bad parts to the new fields. It is advisable to practice shifting cultivation so as to allow the land to regain its lost nutrients.
- Cut off the soft green part of the stem near the leaves, and the bottom part of the sterm as these may have more virus. These must be thrown away in the old field.
- Plant lengths of stem cut from the middle part.
- When the cuttings start to grow, you are advised to pull out those that have yellow, deformed leaves and replant with new ones.
USES AND ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF CASSAVA:
The following are the uses and economic importance of cassava;
- Cassava can be cooked and eaten as yam. It is a delicious delicacy, especially when consumed with fried pepper, palm oil or vegetable oil.
- In South East and South-South parts of Nigeria, cassava is used for a delicacy known as Abacha (African Salad).
- Cassava is the main raw material for producing Fufu, Garri (Cassava Flakes), Lafun (Cassava Flower) Tapioca etc.
- The cassava flakes popularly known as Garri, can be consumed raw after processing. It can also be consumed just like any other flakes with the addition of sugar, milk, choco, groundnuts etc.some prefer to consume their garri with Akara (Beans Cake), Coconut, Moimoi (Beans paste) etc. This garri is a staple food which can be processed as Eba and consumed with any type of soup preferred by the consumer.
- Aside from Lafun which the cassava flour can produced, research confirmed that processed cassava flour can be used to produce varieties of snacks like cake, chin chin, bread, biscuits etc.
- In Democratic Republic of Congo, cassava leaves are useful as vegetable source for a particular soup called Sombe soup.
- In Uganda, cassava is used to brew a strong colourless drink called Okaritua, usually enjoyed by men on market days and inside the sun.
- Furthermore, cassava backs and shafts are useful for feeding livestocks like Cattle, Sheep, Goat etc.
- Water from cassava is used for starch which is another source of food for the people of Calabar, in the South-South region of Nigeria, while starch is also used for industrial purposes, notably for making clothes looks good and fitting.
- Recently, research confirmed that kinetic energy can also be generated from cassava.
There are many other uses and economic importance of Cassava which was not mentioned above. Cassava, when consumed often, can lead to protein malnutrition and if not well processed, could also lead to goiter.
Cassava is a good source of generating income for African Farmers. Analysts stated that Nigeria, as the largest producer of cassava in Africa, can generate potential annual foreign exchange of #127billion on cassava flour alone. This means that Africans can harness this wonderful crop as a good source of food production and income generation, since majority of countries in the continent have the crop readily available for them.
In conclusion, planting of cassava should be embraced as means of ending abject poverty ravaging the continent of Africa. If well harnessed, it can serve as major source of job for teeming unemployed youths all over the continent of Africa.