Super Cassava

An ambitious attempt to bioengineer cassava into a “complete meal” took a step forward with the approval of field trials for the plant by Nigeria’s National Biosafety Committee. The genetically modified cassava contains 30 times as much beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, as its normal counterpart.

Ultimately it is hoped the cassava will contain increased levels of iron, protein, zinc and vitamin E that will meet the minimum daily allowance in a 500 gram meal.

“This is one of the most ambitious projects ever attempted in a major crop plant,” said Richard Sayre of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri, who spoke at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Chicago, the United States last week (13 February). Sayre directs the BioCassava Plus programme, which began in 2005 under the Grand Challenges for Global Health Programme.

The challenge is to provide complete nutrition in a single staple crop. Some 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa — and 800 million people globally — rely on cassava as their main source of energy. But it is low in nutrients, vulnerable to plant viruses, and it lasts only two days without processing.

As well as adding extra nutrients, the team has successfully produced varieties with increased virus resistance, decreased amounts of poisonous cyanides — which can remain in cassava if the crop is poorly processed — and a longer shelf life. “We’re transforming it into a staple that will provide complete nutrition,” Sayre told SciDev.Net.

Laboratory and greenhouse tests have been successful — for example, iron levels were increased ninefold, zinc fourfold and protein fourfold. The next stage is confined field trials — small-scale field trials to evaluate the performance of the crop under stringent conditions.

If those succeed, there will be nutrition trials, first in animals and then in humans. Nigeria’s approval is the first it has granted for a GM confined field trial, said Sayre — though the document awaits the signature of the country’s environment minister. The Nigerian National Root Crops Research Initiative will oversee the trials.

So far, the traits have been introduced individually into plants. The first product with multiple traits is likely to contain just elevated vitamin A, iron and protein as well as virus resistance.

The team also hopes to begin confined field trials in Kenya before the end of 2009. “We are now in the process of training African scientists in our labs.
They are going to learn the technology to make a transgenic cassava plant. They will return and make the final products themselves,” said Sayre.Maina Mwangi, from IITA in Uganda.

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Up P280 million

MANILA, Philippines - The government needs to spend between P130 million and P280 million for its five-year program to increase cassava production and self-sufficiency by 2014.

This will help feed millers during tight corn supply and avoid emergency importations of corn and feed wheat, Agriculture assistant secretary Dennis B. Araullo said in a statement.

Hiking production of cassava by 440.21 percent to 10.48 million metric tons (MMT) in 2014 from 1.94 MMT in 2008 will need P26 million and P70 million every year until 2014 for its five-year program, which also calls for increasing areas planted to 500,000 hectares from the 230,000-hectare target this year.

The industry requires 10.48 million MMT by 2014 as cassava can replace as much as 20 percent of corn in feeds that is also used for bioethanol production and human consumption.

The hog and poultry sectors corner more than three-fourths of total domestic cassava consumption.

“The government has to address a slew of challenges that threatens this goal of cassava self-sufficiency, such as low productivity, limited supply of planting materials of new and high yielding varieties and limited supply of cassava dryers and other postharvest equipment," Araullo said.

The plan also involves the establishment of post-harvest equipment to increase the quality of produce in major cassava-producing regions like northern Mindanao, Bicol, Central Visayas, and Caraga.

The department has distributed high-yielding cassava varieties like NSIC Cv22 (KU-50), Lakan I and Golden Yellow in 53 hectares during the last crop year.

“Hence, this five-year cassava self-sufficiency plan that aims to raise the national yield average of nine MMT per hectare to 21 MMT per hectare by 2014," he added.

Local demand for cassava will likely increase to some 10 MMT in 2014 from 8.820 MMT in 2013; 7.448 MMT in 2012; 6.132 MMT in 2011; and 5.016 MMT next year, given a steady hike of demand for feeds to 8.294 MMT in 2014 from four MMT next year.

During the first quarter, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) said cassava was the biggest gainer in the crops subsector as it increased 5.08 percent to 405,000 MT followed by banana at 5.04 percent to 2.02 MMT.

In 2008, cassava production rose 3.64 percent to 1.941 MMT last year from 1.871 MMT in 2007 while areas planted inched up to 211,633 hectares last year from 209,633 hectares in 2007.

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Cassava in Katine

In the midday heat, a dozen women, members of Ojemorun farmers group in Katine, sit peeling a heap of cassava tubers as men gather stems from the garden.

The tubers of this new variety are longer and bigger than those of the Nigeria strain, the most common type of cassava grown in Katine, but which is vulnerable to diseases like cassava brown streak.

Farmer groups in Katine have been harvesting this new high-yielding, disease-resistant variety of cassava, planted a year ago, given to them by the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref), which is implementing a three-year development project in the sub-county, funded by the Guardian and Barclays. It is receiving technical assistance on farming from Farm-Africa.

Ojemorun is among the first of Amref's 18 livelihood groups to harvest its cassava. After training in May last year, each group was given stem cuttings of the improved Akena and, later, 2961 varieties. Ojemorun was one of four pilot groups to test the enthusiasm for the new strain among farmers. Each group set up a demonstration garden to put into practice what they had learned in training, but also to share the cassava crop. Last month, it was time for the farmers to reap the rewards of their labour.

"Some members wanted us to sell the cassava and buy other things like goats for rearing, but the majority decided that we share the cassava and use it in our homes," explained Julius Opejo, 38, vice-chairman of the group. "There is famine here; people don't have food. A basin of cassava now costs UShs 10,000 [around $4.60], whereas earlier it cost between UShs 3,000 and 5,000."

The group has already ploughed a fresh 0.4 hectare (1 acre) garden where they want to plant the stem cuttings from this harvest. Group chairman Julius Otim says if the new crop does well, then tubers can be given to other farmers who are not part of the 30-member group.

"That is how our neighbours in the village will also benefit," Otim said. "Now the planting material [tubers] would not be enough to give to other people. That is why we have to plant a new garden so as to multiply them."

Although Uganda's research scientists often come up with new varieties of crops to defeat emerging diseases and pests, the challenge lies in getting this information to farmers. The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), which seeks to inform farmers about new varieties and ideas, does not get enough money to reach everyone. Like the Katine project's livelihoods component, NAADS works through farmer groups, with one set of farmers having to wait for another before getting any new variety.

Replanting crops in Katine is a slow way to get the improved variety out to other farmers, but, according to David Ogwang, Amref's project assistant for livelihoods, there are no easy short cuts.

One farmers group, Ojwinyi, has decided to distribute the cuttings among themselves right away, instead of re-planting. "The disadvantage with this option is that each farmer only gets a few cuttings that can only be planted in a small area. But in the end we shall see the results and tell which method will have worked better."

So what lessons have the Ojemorun farmers learned from the demonstration exercise? For Anna Grace Anyeno, a mother of five, Akena is a good variety that she did not know about until Amref introduced it. She says it gives bigger tubers and, after only one year, it can be cooked and eaten from the garden.

"But this variety needs a lot of work," Anyeno says. "It needs a well-ploughed garden and you must plant it in spaced rows, whereas for Nigeria, we just plant in any field anyhow."

While she sees this as a disadvantage, in future she hopes to plant both Nigeria and Akena. Nigeria can be harvested, sun-dried and sold or milled into flour after eight months, while the new type will be popular with buyers who want to boil it for food or to make cassava chips.

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Cassava a big export

AN appeal is being made for farmers to grow more cassava to allow the Trinidad and Tobago Agri-Business Association (TTABA) to export ground provision throughout the Caribbean.

According to the association’s communications consultant, Marissa Findlay, who spoke at a workshop in Tableland, Princes Town, on cassava production on Tuesday, Government was starting to export ground provision to neighbouring islands, and were in need of cassava.

“We have the quantity to export, but demand is growing, so we have to get our farmers to grow more,” she said.

Findlay said cassava was a delicacy which was in high demand, especially at hotels and supermarkets.

Already, cassava is being cut into fries, wedges and made as croquets and is being juiced.

Cassava flour is also a big seller abroad, Findlay said.

At the workshop, the association displayed a range of cassava products and officials lectured to farmers on new techniques in planting cassava.

The association also noted that it intends to use a specific type of technique to burrow into the soil and destroy the pests which attack the cassava root.

Last year, the association held a similar workshop at Sevilla, Couva.

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Cassava Mania

The economic slowdown triggers memories of earlier tough times, but it also evokes a sense of nostalgia for many people from the central province of Quang Nam.

At a time of scarcity, from the late seventies to the early eighties, one of the food items that helped them survive was bun san (cassava vermicelli).

The special vermicelli originated in Dong Phu Town of Que Son District and quickly became a common means for the whole province to deal with the massive shortage of the main staple - rice.

Cassava roots were ground into flour and repeatedly washed with water to get rid of any toxins as well as any bitter taste. The flour was then stir-boiled and squeezed into long, white noodles through a holed mold.

Soon, this was not a substitute, but a dish favored for its fresh fragrance and light taste. Locals also found it firmer and longer lasting than rice vermicelli.

Bun san can be mixed with salads or stir-fried with fish sauce to make many mouthwatering delicacies but gourmet chefs are generally agreed that on top of the list is bun san ca dong (cassava vermicelli soup with the meat of freshwater fish, usually snakehead fish).

Culinary artists clean the fish, remove the intestines and season it with dried onion, garlic, sugar, saffron and fish sauce. After letting it marinate in the spices for about 10 minutes, they boil the fish for a short time to extract the flesh.

This is then stir-fried in cooking oil, crushed peanuts, salt, sugar and fish sauce until the fish is well cooked. An adequate amount of water is then poured, seasoned and brought to a boil.

It is important not to use stock made with pig’s bones as with most other broths, as it would spoil the flavor of the snakehead fish.

A good broth will have a sweet taste and look clear with a thin layer of peanut oil on the surface.

Cassava vermicelli fish soup is served with vegetables, whole or crushed peanuts, chilis and lemon.

The simple, cheap delight has tickled th e palates of both locals and tourists, especially Quang Nam expats living in other places. One place to enjoy a really good bun san is the Nha Que Restaurant at 51 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Da Nang City.

About one hundred households make vermicelli from cassava in Dong Phu but locals claim the best noodles come from seven family-run businesses in the town’s Hamlet 2.

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My parent

Like other parents, my mother is 63 years old and she really enjoy her live, she never complaint with her medical, and she really enjoy stay alone in her house, as her son sometime I feel that her safety is everything. She live with our mate and the servant that already 12 years with our big family, she also never complaint and really taking of my mother.

It was last year when my mother servant when home to her village for holiday several days, I feel bad when imagining my mother will be alone and something happen to her and need to quickly action when there is a Medical Alert, because it will happen with all old age. Well sometime we only count on mobile phone to connect or protective our family news, here we facing the same problem like accident that is need Medical Alert or first aid at least.

Please do not panic or made a wrong decision, when we have a medical Alert among our family since nowadays the technology is amazing and develop so quick. my friend also told me that the sensor that attached to this device is real electronic and can detect and no need to push button at all

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Small but Important

Just wondering how important exit signs inside of building, for sure we never realize that this information is very important. I just attending a convention in five star Hotel in town and for sure we only like and think about the environment surrounding Hotel rather then the safety of that Hotel, because our eyes always look at the big and colorful place, we never try find little detail of that Hotel. Hotel always have this information as a safety standard event they have many of this information, since this is regulation that need to obey.

This is my experience last time when I have a chance to stay and attending a convention in 5 stars Hotel which is have all the facility and best product good ambiance, surrounding hotel will glance your eyes but suddenly my eyes catch a small thing that usually people forget EXIT SIGNS, it seems this information is useless but you will feel that this is important when something happen on that building because only this information will bring you to way out.

You my not believe with what I say, until you facing the situation that need you to find it. Exit Sign is not important if nothing happen but for sure you will say that this signed will help you out of the trouble when you have a bad experience inside the building. Well my tips is simple please find this EXIT SIGNS when you attending concert or convention. Just in case there is an accident like fire or earthquake so this will lead you out from the building. That information I want to share with you since I have been in the situation that everybody is panic and confuse not to mention the place is so crowded and you have only second to take action.

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Fiji loses cassava market in Canada

Fiji’s export of Cassava to the Canadian market is facing tougher competition from other International Exporters.

Industry Canada's Trade and Investment report reveals that Canadian businesses coast to coast are now buying their supply of Cassava from countries such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and even China.

This tough competition has cost Fiji its market share in Canada. The Industry Canada report further reveals that in 2008, Costa Rica's total export of Cassava to Canada alone, was valued at FJ $4.3 million dollars.

In the same period Fiji which once used to hold the market share is reported to have only exported cassava valued at FJ $55,686.00.

Ashwant Dwivedi, the Fiji's Embassy's former Business Development Manager to the Fiji Mission in Canada says that this sends a clear message to suppliers in Fiji that cassava is no longer an exclusive cashable product that Fiji can be proud of and that there is tougher competition out there that Fiji will have to compete with to survive and thrive in the international market.

In 2006 Cassava exports from Fiji were recorded at FJ $49,000 while in 2007 cassava exports from Fiji showed positive result of increase with sales recorded at FJ $77,000.

However the sales again plunged in 2008 at FJ $56,000.

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Cassava stakeholders ask for subsidy to boost export

STAKEHOLDERS in cassava production, utilisation and development yesterday met in Lagos where they charged the Federal Government to provide subsidy and other incentives for the development of the crop as obtains in other countries, if Nigeria is to achieve set revenue targets in cassava production.

At the meeting were representatives of the Flour Millers Association of Nigeria (FMAN), Nigeria Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (CPMA), Cassava Farmers Association (CFA), Association of Small and Medium Scale Industries (NASI), Nigerian Institute of Food, Science and Technology (NIFST), Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, (FIIRO).

The stakeholders, who met at the premises of FIIRO, also asked the Federal Government to rescind its decision to strike out flour from the Export Prohibition List.

The meeting noted that the delisting last year had opened the floodgate for the importation of all sorts of flour into the country, most of which failed to meet laid down criteria, including the requirement that flour to be used in Nigeria must have 10 per cent cassava content and be fortified with Vitamin A.

According to the stakeholders, the high cost of producing cassava has made it difficult for the country to meet its cassava export capacity and the demand by consuming nations.

A participant who represented FMAN at the meeting, Alhaji Olalekan Saliu, cited the recent case of Chinese firms that wanted some high-quality cassava chips, which demand Nigeria could not meet due to high production cost.

Saliu lamented that the high cost has made Nigerian cassava products non-competitive in the international market.

Director-General, FIIRO, Oluwole Olatunji, said cassava was a magic crop that could yield as much foreign exchange for Nigeria as crude oil if conscious attention was devoted to its production and diversification by government.

According to him, one way government could aid the development of the crop is by elevating its cultivation from subsistence level to commercial farming by making low interest credit available to cassava growers.

Addressing the gathering, Project Manager, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA), Prof. Lateef Sani, said while Nigeria was the largest producer of cassava in the world, Thailand remained the world's number one exporter of cassava products.

He therefore, called for concerted efforts among stakeholders and the government to overcome this discrepancy.

Representative, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, Mrs. Ijada Mckena, whose organisation is funding CAVA in five African countries including Nigeria, urged the stakeholders to do more to accelerate the realisation of CAVA's objectives.

Mckena renewed the pledge of the Foundation to continue to partner the private sector and other stake-holders in the overall interest of CAVA to ensure that farmers in particular and other investors involved in cassava revolution projects reap commensurate gains.

National President, NIFST and Vice-Chancellor, Bell University of Technology, Prof. Adeyemo Adeyemi, informed the meeting that the Bill on 10 per cent cassava flour inclusion in bread-making had scaled the second reading at the National Assembly./span>

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