Enhancing cassava production to ensure food security in sub-Saharan Africa

By Teshome Shikesso

Cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world, with Africa its largest center of production. I know cassava very well because I was a cassava steering committee member for Eastern and Central African Root Crops Research Network (EARRNET), headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. I have visited cassava farms, processing facilities and farmer unions that is mentioned in the video. Cassava has got an international attention in solving the huge hunger and food-insecurity particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because cassava plays a vital role for the livelihoods of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of Calories, Food security, Cash income, Industrial raw material, and Livestock feed (http://www.ilri.org/data/events/342/Events%5CEvent0.htm). Both the cassava roots and leaves are edible and hence it is considered to be famine reserve for humans and animals. Its stems are also used for constructing huts, fence and as fire wood. Cassava has several other advantages as a food staple in areas where there is a degraded resource base, uncertain rainfall and weak market infrastructure. It is drought tolerant; this attribute makes it the most suitable food crop during periods of drought and famine. It has been reported that food insecurity is a major threat in Sub-Saharan Africa, with occurrence of “food energy deficiency in the twelve countries ranging from 37% for Uganda to 76% for Ethiopia” (http://www.ifpri.org/events/seminars/2005/20050505PR.htm). Problems associated to cassava production are: lack of improved varieties which are high yielding, early maturing and low in cyanide content. In order to help tackle these and associated problems, cassava has got an international attention and currently different organizations and foundations are involving in research and development activities. For instance The Clinton Foundation is currently assisting farmers in planting high-yielding cassava varieties that grow in relatively dry conditions to enable food security and incomes for thousands of families in sub-Saharan Africa. This video explains the progress of cassava production, consumption and commercial aspects related to its contribution to food security in Uganda, one of the Sub-Saharan Africa nations.

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