The leaves are eaten as vegetable in some areas, and others use it as a blood tonic to treat anemia. The stems serve as “seeds” (planted to grow new cassava), and the root is what is eaten. Cassava is the third largest source of food for many Africans, after rice and corn.
Cassava is cultivated in both small and large scales in many parts of Africa. Those involved in subsistent farming cultivate just enough cassava to feed their families while those who carryout large scale farming cultivates for commercial purposes and also export to other countries.
The three largest cassava producing countries in Africa are Nigeria, who produces 47,406,770 tons of cassava annually, followed by Angola with 16,411,674 tons and Ghana with 15,989,940 tons.
Cassava farming is a major source of income for many Africans, but processed cassava seems to be more profitable as many are gradually getting involved in cassava processing. There are diverse cassava products that have found their way into the world market and have become very profitable for those who have invested in it.
POPULAR CASSAVA PRODUCTS IN THE MARKET TODAY
Garri is the most popular cassava product used in many African homes. Garri is produced by grating or crushing cassava tubers to produce a mash, which is pressed to get rid of the extra starchy liquid found in it. The dry mash is then sieved and fried with or without palm oil to produce white and yellow garri respectively.
Garri can be consumed as a full meal after adding hot water and mixing with a pestle to get a smooth dough and eaten with vegetable or okra soups. It can also be eaten as a snack, by adding cold water, sugar, milk and peanuts, depending on individual preferences. This is popularly called “cold water garri” and is very popular among African students around the world.
Cassava flour is made from dried ground cassava. Though not very popular, it is used in baking and cooking, especially by those suffering from food allergies and those on gluten free diets. Many people are gradually substituting all-purpose flour with cassava flour because of its neutral taste, smooth and non-grain consistency.
Other food products made from cassava include “water fufu”, acheke, miondo/bobolo, cassava chips and akara.
Cassava starch is one of the most used cassava product for food and non-food purposes. It is widely used by food industries as a thickener, a binder and a stabilizer. Pharmaceutical industries use it as a fill up for pills and tablets. Cassava starch is also used in the textile industries for cloth printing and coloring. Starch from sweet cassava is also used to make glucose.
WHY CASSAVA IS CONSIDERED AS AN ACCESSIBLE GOLD MINE FOR MANY AFRICANS
Cassava is resistant to harsh tropical climates and is easy to cultivate
This is the reason why most farmers include cassava among the crops they cultivate. Many people have also invested in large scale for commercial purposes. Due to its resistant nature, cassava produces good yield during extreme climatic conditions especially droughts, due to its water retention nature. As result, there is always cassava to meet up with the high demand.
Cassava production and processing is a source of income and livelihood
With the high rate of unemployment in many African countries, industrial cassava cultivation and processing is a source of employment for many Africans. Those who process cassava for commercial purposes need people to work through the processes, especially when the processing is not mechanized.
Cassava products are easy to make and sell at attractive prices
There has been a considerable increase in the demand for cassava products in the past years, especially garri, starch and cassava flour. 75% of cassava produced in Africa is processed in to garri as its demand increases with the increase of the African population and garri consumers. 2kg of garri is sold at $18.99 on amazon.
Cassava production is very profitable, as all parts of the cassava plant are useful; from the leaves to the cassava peels.
How to improve cassava production
Many African farmers have not been able to exploit the benefits of cassava production, due to the difficulties they face. Many small and medium size enterprises involved in cassava farming and processing need assistance from the government.
African governments need to invest in the agricultural sector, by giving subventions to SMEs that are involved in cassava farming and processing, building farm to market roads and increasing the use of cassava products by industries.
The government should also invest in research and innovative farming, so as to find ways to improve the quality and also increase the quantity of cassava and its products.
Article from AFRIC Editorial