Cassava is one of the most popular and widely consumed food crops in Nigeria.
Cassava, which originated from tropical America and introduced to Africa by the Portuguese in the year 1958 through the Congo basin, has since gained acceptance in Africa and this plays an important role in agriculture among developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, because it does well on poor soils with low rainfall.
According to the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, the increase in Nigeria’s and Africa’s population over the years has made the demand for cassava and its product to rise and this development has led to higher revenue for farmers all over the word.
However, experts have observed that not all farmers or individuals who venture into cassava farming do it due to lack of employ-ability in the country or inadequate skills to be successful in other business.
But rather the wide harvesting window of cassava plantation allows it to act as a famine reserve and is invaluable in managing labour schedules. It also offers flexibility to poor farmers because it serves as either subsistence or a cash crop.
This food crop has been cultivated for centuries and processed into a number of products such as starch, flour, chips, ethanol, glucose syrup, and bread amongst others.These products are in high demand locally, and internationally.
Research shows that Africa depends much on root and tuber crops more than all continents in feeding its population. and this crop processed into several formulation such as Garri (for drinking) or making eba (a popular food in Nigeria), Fufu, Tapioka. The cassava plant gives the third highest yield of carbohydrates per cultivated area among crop plants, after sugarcane and sugar beets.
Cassava starch is used in making products such as biscuits, bread and derivatives such as sagos and sauce. Cassava starch has also been industrially modified to provide products with physical and chemical properties for specific applications, including the preparation of jelly, thickening agents, gravies, custard powders, baby food, glucose and confectioneries (Ene, 1992)
However, since the advent of cassava usage in production and processing of animal feed, Asia and Latin America have witnessed rapid changes in the value chain system. Other contributing factors include new government policies promoting the use of cassava based products, improvements in cassava processing technology and the emerging importance of cassava as an effective industrial raw material for starch, animal feed and ethanol industries.
Cassava farming is mainly done to produce food items, solvents, alcohol, glucose, animal feed, energy, fertilisers, and some extra by-products. Nigeria tops the cassava production list, all over the world and Thailand tops the list of cassava production in the Asian continent.
Commercial cassava farming can create a huge profit if a suitable variety of cassava is cultivated with good farm management skills. Mainly, cassava plant, leaves and tubers are the important part, which is used most by the people for cooking or in other forms. Roots of this commercial crops are mainly consumed because it has an excellent source of starch along with vitamin ‘C’, calcium, phosphorus, etc.
A good combination of all these nutrients have lots of health benefits. Cassava roots are about 1 mm thick in size and have brown colour outside. However, the commercial cassava plants have larger roots having a bigger diameter and larger length.
Cassava has ability to grow on poor soils majorly because it has an extensive root system and uses plant nutrients which are not easily accessible to other crops. In traditional farming, without fertilisers, farmers can obtain yields of 5-6 t/ha on soils that would not support other crops.
However, for good growth and yields, cassava requires light textured and well-drained soils containing sufficient moisture and a balanced amount of plant nutrients. Under such conditions, yields of 40-60 tons/hectar are possible.
For healthy cultivation, it is advisable to make use of fresh stem cuttings from mature plants which are simply the best for planting. Cassava stem cuttings are vulnerable to adverse climatic conditions, pests, and diseases. If exposed to sunlight, cuttings dry and lose viability. Excessive moisture causes sprouting or rotting, and this slows down the initial development and it (sprouts) makes cassava susceptible to weed competition in the first 3-4 months.
Regular weeding is required till the crops are able to form canopy and reduce weed infestation.
Cassava farming depends on soil type and drainage, the field may be prepared as mounds, ridges, flat-tilled, or zero-tilled. Where mechanisation is available, the land is ploughed and harrow to a depth of 25cm. However, planting on flat soil, requires cuttings directly into the land.
Cassava harvesting should be done as soon as tuberous roots have accumulated sufficient amount of starch, but not too late, when tuberous roots become woody or fibrous. Depending on the varieties, it could be harvested at 7 or 12 months after planting.
Most cassava varieties attain optimum weight about 18 months after planting when starch accumulation is at optimum. The best time for harvesting cassava varies according to time of planting, climatic conditions, soil factors down to market conditions.
Manual harvesting involves cutting the stems a few centimetres above the ground, and then loosening the soil around the tuberous roots, and pulling the stub of the stem up to lift out the root.
Mechanical harvesters use their tools to uproot tuberous roots, which are then piled by hand. Harvesting is easier when the soil is moist or when planted on ridges rather than on flat ground.
During cassava processing you can decide what you want to make of the cassava root, either to make Garri, Fufu, or even Tapioca, depending on the market needs.
The starch made from cassava is used in the thickening of sauces, soups, porridge’s, puddings, jellies, cakes, biscuits. Also, cassava is a raw material for starch balls. This is one of the most popular uses of starch. Cassava flour can replace flour made of cereals. It is used to bake cakes or bread and is an alternative to traditional bread for people who suffer from allergy to grain.
Health Benefit Of Cassava
- Cassava roots are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins such as manganese, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and Iron. All these are responsible for the healthy development of the body.
- Cassava is rich in fibers and dietary fiber which are helpful in preventing constipation.
- Cassava contains high amount of carbohydrates content which consuming them can provide a lot of energy to the body.
- Consuming cassava is also helpful in weight management.
- Eating of cassava regularly prevents one from various types of cancer.
- Cassava also enhance good digestive system.
- Cassava helps in treating diarrhoea, and the rheumatic diseases.
- Consumption of cassava is beneficial for good health such as eyes, hair and skin.
- Cassava is used as home remedy for curing headaches and fever.
- Cassava enhance fast recovery of wounds.
- It is helpful in boosting the immune system and lowering the blood pressure.
- Constant consumption of cassava helps to propagate good nerve and brain health.
Nutritional Value of Cassava
The following nutrients are found in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of boiled cassava
- Calories: 112
- Carbs: 27 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Thiamine: 20% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 5% of the RDI
- Calcium: 2% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 2% of the RDI
Boiled cassava root also contains small amounts of iron, vitamin C and niacin and minimal vitamins and mineral.
Other Health Effects Of Cassava
– Enhances immunity
– Has an anti-inflammatory effect
– Normalises blood sugar level
– Removes excess cholesterol from the body
– Strengthens bones
– Prevents Alzheimer’s disease and other CNS diseases
– Normalises blood pressure and heart function
– Slows down the ageing process.
Anti-Nutrients Contained in Cassava
Anti-nutrients are plant compounds that may interfere with digestion and inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body.These aren’t a concern for most healthy people, but it is important to put it in mind because they are more likely to impact risk of malnutrition in human most especially those who rely on cassava as a staple food.
The following are the most common anti-nutrients found in Cassava.
- Saponins: Antioxidants that may have drawbacks, such as reduced absorption of some vitamins and minerals.
- Phytate: This anti-nutrient may interfere with the absorption of magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
- Tannins: Known for reducing protein’s digestibility and interfering with the absorption of iron, zinc, copper and thiamine.
The effects of anti-nutrients are more prominent when they are consumed frequently and as part of a nutritionally inadequate diet. As long as you only consume cassava occasionally, the anti-nutrients would not be a major cause of concern.
In fact, anti-nutrients such as tannins and saponins actually have some beneficial health effects in some cases.
Pests And Diseases Affecting Cassava Production
The pests and diseases affecting Cassava plantation can be likened to the cons of cassava plantation or simply put the disadvantages of Cassava plantation in Nigeria.
As we all know that a disease is an abnormal condition that causes discomfort or dysfunction to a particular thing distinct from injury that usually happened instantaneously.
Diseases Affecting Cassava Production
- Cassava mosaic disease,
- Cassava bacteria blight,
- brown leaf spot
- rot root
The cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti) and cassava green mite (Mononychellus tanajoa) can cause up to 80% crop loss, which is extremely detrimental to the production of subsistence farmers.
- Cassava mealybug
- Cassava green mite
- grass cutter
A wide range of plant parasitic nematodes have been reported to be associated with cassava worldwide. These include Pratylenchus brachyurus., Rotylenchulus reniformis, Helicotylenchus spp. and Meloidogyne spp., of which Meloidogyne incognita and Meloidogyne javanica are the most widely reported and economically important.
Currently the use of tolerant and resistant varieties is the most practical and sustainable management method for these pests and diseases.
Constraints Of Cassava Production
The production of cassava is concentrated in the hands of numerous smallholder farmers located primarily in the south and central regions of Nigeria. Although, a notable number of cassava growers in Nigeria has made the transition from traditional production systems to the use of high-yielding varieties and mechanisation of processing activities yet it is not proactive enough
In this light Nigeria still produces more than 45 million metric tons (MT) of cassava, making it the world’s largest producer. In spite of this volume, the full yield potential has not been realised since smallholder production rarely exceeds 11 MT per hectare. Less than one percent of total cassava production is processed commercially primarily due to the high cost of transport and lack of adequate agro-processing capacity.
Simply put, time, capital, mechanisation and resources are the major constraints to commercialised cassava farming in Nigeria.