By SITUMBEKO SITWALA
THE International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is promoting cassava in wheat products to improve food security and livelihoods.
IFAD, which was formed to combat rural hunger and poverty in developing countries through low-interest loans and direct assistance, has initiated the inclusion of cassava in bread and other confectionery as part of efforts to improve food security and the livelihoods of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Cassava is mostly grown by small-scale farmers and the crop is a source of livelihood for about 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
IFAD launched the cassava initiative in July and two grant-aided projects are already running in Lagos, Nigeria.
One project is designed to enhance competitiveness of the high quality cassava flour (HQCF) value chain in West and Central Africa.
The other is aimed at improving quality, nutrition and health impacts of the inclusion of cassava flour in bread in Nigeria and Ghana, according to a press release dated August 1 obtained from IFADâ€™s website.
The projects will, among others, support the generation, dissemination and adoption of improved technologies for production and processing of the tuber crop.
The UN agency will develop and pilot-test a set of integrated best-bet options for HQCF production and promote market access to secondary products.
IFAD will develop and promote appropriate evidence-based models for sustainable value chain development for African agricultural commodities using HQCF production and processing as an example.
The IFAD plan is being conducted in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to use cassava to tackle poverty and hunger on the continent.
Recently IITA researchers and partners successfully baked bread with 40 percent cassava flour and 60 percent wheat flour, showing bakers a window of possibilities.
IITA director general Nteranya Sanginga in a speech read by Dr Alfred Dixon, project leader of IITAâ€™s Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria project, described cassava as a â€œpoverty fighterâ€ and that the two IFAD-funded projects were timely.
â€œAfrica has a comparative advantage in cassava productionâ€¦ so let us use cassava to get what we want,â€Dr Sanginga said in the statement.
However, because the value chain is underdeveloped and the crop spoils relatively quickly after harvesting, farmers are yet to exploit the full potential in terms of livelihood improvement.
By SITUMBEKO SITWALA