FIIRO Pioneers Research into Cassava Flour

The Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi Nigeria (FIIRO), in collaboration with Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) and the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB) recently organised an awareness program for bakers from all parts of Lagos State to demonstrate the use of high quality cassava flour and cassava-wheat composite flour for baking bread and other confectioneries.
Director General of the institute, Dr. Oluwole Olatunji said though the research into the use of non-wheat flours for baking began in 1969, the birth of the 10 percent cassava bread was linked to the visit of former president Olusegun Obasanjo to the institute in March 2004, during an inspection of some products on display by the institute, where he was attracted to the cassava bread.

He said the project was sponsored by C:AVA, an initiative of the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), England , which is sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates.
Apart from reducing the cost of producing confectioneries, he said the introduction of 10 percent cassava flour would promote cassava cultivation in the country; provide employment; improve the lives of farmers, as well as encourage small scale industries.

“If there is a demand for cassava, more Nigerians will be encouraged to produce it, but unless there are uses and they can get some money for their labor, they are not going to do it. If farmers are encouraged and given incentives to produce at low cost, flour will be available at a low cost I think we should embrace this.”
Olatunji assured that the flour is safe and all species of cassava could be used, “we have been in this business of cassava for over 50 years; it is safe if the right flour is bought. We have developed the technology of producing the flour and the bread, so we are ready to teach anyone who is interested in the business.”
The Country Manager of C:AVA, Prof. Lateef Sanni said the country produces more than 40 million ecog of cassava yearly and the 10 percent required for baking is just about 1.5 million ecog. “So we have plenty of cassava, there is no problem about other normal traditional staples.”

Sanni, a professor of Food Science and Technology at UNAB, said cassava possesses other useful properties. “If you turn it into high quality cassava flour and use it to produce confectioneries, you will come out with the same quality product at a reduced cost, it also means that you produce with locally sourced materials. Wheat flour is not from Nigeria , by using cassava, you are helping your farmer and other people that process it. When you use cassava for bread production for instance, what we are also trying to do is to create employment and also further opportunities for the use of cassava.”

A food technologist and official of the Natural Resources Institute, Dr. Louise Abayomi said the institute is currently working in five African countries, including Nigeria and that its aim was to improve the livelihood of about 20,000 farmers in the country by increasing the amount of cassava that is used. “If there is no market for cassava, we cannot help farmers so we are promoting the use of 10 percent cassava flour in bread, we are also working with biscuit manufacturers.”
She said the institute would be in the country for only three years and was training local service providers that would ensure the continuity of the project.

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Training workshops seeks to add value to cassava

A week long training workshop on adding value to cassava opens today in Kibaha, Coast Region.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said in a statement that the workshop would be a training session for trainers under the Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa (UPoCA)project.
Participants will be officials from the public and private sectors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the countrys main cassava growing zones.

"The training on processing high quality cassava flour and product development will be hands-on and practical. The trainees will, in turn, train small-scale processing groups and farmers in their respective zones on cassava processing, packaging and storage to improved shelf life," IITA Tanzania said in the statement.

UPoCA project areas in Tanzania are Dodoma Rural and Mpwapwa in the Central Zone, Tandahimba, Nachingwea and Lindi in the Southern Zone and the Eastern Zones Kisarawe and Bagamoyo districts. The USAID-funded project is currently undertaken in seven countries, namely DR Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.

The project was initiated in the context of the current food crisis and global financial meltdown that have affected the ability of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa to meet their food needs.

"The UPoCA project responds to the food crisis in Africa by promoting cassava as an engine for rural economic growth and improved livelihoods with spillover benefits to urban populations. The project focuses on the cassava because of its ability to create low and steady prices for basic food products," the IITA statement says.

It adds that the project aims to empower farmers and their organisations to provide an adequate supply of cassava products at affordable prices. The strategy includes developing and making available to farmers improved cassava varieties and equipping farmers and agro-processors with the knowledge and skills to reduce postharvest losses. It will also diversify cassava uses by stimulating the production of value added cassava-based food and industrial products.

"A range of user friendly improved postharvest technologies developed by IITA and national partners will be disseminated for the production of starch, dried chips, high quality cassava flour and other products, thereby adding value to the crop. The processed products have a longer shelf-life."

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Chinese ethanol demand lifts Vietnam cassava exports

Vietnam's cassava chip exports are soaring because of demand from China to make ethanol and earnings for the whole of 2009 could be $800 million, nearly double those in the first eight months, state-run Vietnam Television said.

China, which needs to import up to 6.5 million tonnes of cassava chips per year for biofuel and feed production, has also been cooperating with Laos, the Philippines and Nigeria on planting cassava in those countries, VTV said on Wednesday.

Vietnam's cassava exports from January to August jumped 69.5 percent from a year before to $436 million, government data shows. China buys about 90 percent of the cassava exported from its southern neighbour.

Vietnam's cassava output this year could fall to 8.6 million tonnes from 9 million in 2008 as the planting area could fall 6 percent to 510,000 hectares (1.26 million acres), government reports show.

Setting aside 4.4 million tonnes for domestic consumption, Vietnam still has up to 5 million tonnes of cassava available for export in 2009 thanks to a large stock carried over from last year, the broadcast said.

It quoted the trade ministry as saying foreign firms' demand for cassava on e-commerce sites was stronger than that for rice.

But rapid development of cassava production has raised environmental concerns because the soil used for cassava plants becomes exhausted after two or three crops and planting often triggers deforestation.

The government has yet to announce any policy to curb cassava plantations. Vietnam has also been building biofuel plants using the produce as feedstock.

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Food: An illustration of culture

Mostly ignored and overlooked as an element of culture, food is often seen merely as something to fill the belly with. But by dipping into the histories and presence of food, we can pretty much see the mixture of culture and how globalization is proceeding.

In a classic Betawi song by Benyamin Sueb, titled "Ape Kabar?" (How are you?) Benyamin asks a friend living abroad how it feels to live far from home.

"You must've eaten cheese every day, and forgotten the taste of terasi *shrimp paste*," he sings with Ida Royani. From this song, we can guess that the perceptions Benyamin and Ida shared about living in Western countries were deeply related to a totally different pattern of food consumption.

Cheese, hamburger, steak, pizza and pasta to name a few, are one of the "Western" types of food, whereas, Indonesians "should be" more accustomed to rice, noodles, cassava and of course, sambal (spicy sauce).

Having learned about the "West versus Indonesia" opposition since I was young, it came as a surprise to me to notice that Belgians use bawang goreng (fried onions) in their burgers. Going under the brand "Bicky Burger", these are sold by small vendors on the streets. After putting the slice of meat and cheese in between the bread, they pour the already-prepared fried onions. It gives a crispy sensation against the soft warm bread and meat. Served with French fries or snacks such as sate and lumpia, this kind of burger accompanies most frietjes or chip vendors in Belgium.

Lumpia (eggroll), the snack most Indonesians believe originated in Semarang, Central Java, is sometimes also served as a side dish to accompany the fries, salad and mayonnaise, while we can always find nasi goreng (fried rice) in Chinese restaurants in Belgium.

Even though lumpia and nasi goreng have a strong Chinese Hokkien influence, those are now claimed to be "real" Indonesian food. Nasi goreng, for instance, definitely has Indonesian etymology.

So whose taste is whose? And what is authentic? Is bawang goreng an Asian taste ripped from its root and invaded by the mighty burgers? We have heard what burgers can do to a nation.

The endless invasion of fast-food restaurants and franchised caf*'s in Indonesia is just one of them. George Ritzer (1999) calls it "McDonaldization", a homogenization of taste according to the Western tongue and standards, where every service is valued and uniformed based by the Americans.

But then again, aren't we able to find rice and sambal in those fast-food restaurants? Aren't we able to choose to eat burgers from the burger man honking his horn down the street? According to an anthropologist on globalization and consumption, Richard Wilk (1999), this is what globalization is all about. It is about the encounters of culture and the mix of taste. The idea that lumpia was brought from China to Semarang centuries ago, for instance, before it continued its journey even further to the West to small cities in Belgium, is an illustration of how globalization is an inevitable continuous process that has happened ever since.

These encounters create hybrid food, a mix of cultures embedded in a portion of dish. It is not only to be found in places miles from Indonesia, but is written all over the country's cuisine. Taking the vivid example of cassava and cheese, this snack is thought not to have existed before the 1980s. As proved by the song, "Singkong dan Keju" (Cassava and Cheese) by Bill and Brod, it tells the story of a man who likes cassava and a girl who likes cheese.

"We wouldn't be able to be together, our tastes are poles apart," the song claimed twenty years ago. Cheese back then was the ultimate symbol of the West, whereas cassava was the symbol of traditionalism, poverty and modesty.

It probably didn't occur to Bill and Brod that only a few years since that song, people were actually able to unite the two symbols of modernity and traditionalism. Nowadays, not only is cassava a food to be eaten by almost all classes in big cities - deconstructing the idea of poverty and deprivation - but cheese is a food widely consumed not only by the West.

This brings us back to the first question of whose culture is whose? Using Wilk's assumption that globalization is an act marked by the encounters of culture and has existed for centuries - an act that is intensified nowadays due to the improvement of technology - it would be difficult to determine that this taste and culture is entirely mine and that is entirely yours. Like the bawang goreng inside the burger or the cheese on top of the cassava, it began once upon a time, when cultures met along the way and influenced one another.

A total occupation of culture by another is thus impossible, as - let's face it -the Dutch who colonized Indonesia also took home some culture from Indonesia back to their country: sate, nasi goreng, pisang ambon or bawang goreng, to name a few tastes.

Taking this into account, it would be absurd to view the newest debate over the stealing of culture between Malaysia and Indonesia. It would be difficult to claim that a culture or a taste is entirely mine and definitely not yours, or vice versa. Authenticity of a culture is thus never at stake, but on the other hand, culture - like taste - is a result of a never-ending continuous conversation.

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Cassava will make more toxin

Monash researcher Dr Ros Gleadow and her research team have received international recognition for their research into cassava and climate change.

Dr Gleadow's research showed that staples such as cassava become more toxic and produce much smaller yields in a world with higher carbon dioxide levels and more drought.

The findings were published in the peer reviewed journal Plant Biology.

Dr Gleadow's team tested cassava and sorghum under a series of climate change scenarios to study the effect on plant nutritional quality and yield.

Both species belong to a group of plants that produce chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release poisonous cyanide gas if the leaves are crushed or chewed. The team grew cassava and sorghum at three different levels of CO2; just below today's current levels at 360 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere, at 550 ppm and double at 710 pm. Current levels in the air are approximately 390 ppm.

"What we found was the amount of cyanide relative to the amount of protein increased," Dr Gleadow said.

"At double current CO2 levels, the level of toxin was much higher while protein levels fell. The ability of people and herbivores, such as cattle, to break down the cyanide depends largely on eating sufficient protein. Anyone largely reliant on cassava for food, particularly during drought, would be especially at risk of cyanide poisoning."

"While it was possible to use processing techniques to reduce the level of toxin in the cassava leaves, it was the 50 per cent or greater drop in the number of tubers that caused most concern," Dr Gleadow said.

About 750 million people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rely on flour made from cassava tubers as a staple The findings underscore the need to develop new cultivate to feed rapidly growing human populations.

"Reducing carbon emissions wouldn't be a bad idea either," Dr Gleadow said.

Dr Gleadow's team comprises scientists and researchers from Australia and Mozambique, including her collaborator Dr Tim Cavagnaro from Monash and Dr John Evans (ANU).

Funding for the project has been provided by the Finkel Foundation, the ODVCI Strategic Initiatives Grant, and AusAID. Dr Anna Burns joined the team this week and is busy preparing for a visit to Monash (South Africa) and field sites in Mozambique

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Cassava Pone (sweet treat of tropics) recipe

Wanderer of ages.
There was a time when I dragged my car across the country, life in back pocket, convinced the next great thing lay under one of those rocks out there.

My adventures took me far and wide, hemmed in only by this country’s borders and the limits of my own imagination.

At the ripe old age of twenty-two, I ended up in Berkeley, CA, home of everything both weird and ridiculously normal at the same time. Buddhism, yoga, homeless people having acid flashbacks in the now-decrepit and dangerous People’s Park, the crown jewels of San Francisco Bay Area wealth glittering with haunting illusion high in the Berkeley hills. The Ashby Flea Market, a hodge-podge of booths with knick-knacks for sale, set up every weekend at the local BART (or subway) station.

I looked forward to Sundays, when I’d get off work from my collectivist restaurant job in time to enjoy a delicious cassava pone sweet treat in the just setting sun.

Mostly known as “Cuban potato” in the States, cassava is often found in Latin dishes served fried or boiled as a starchy side-dish called “yucca.” Its remarkable ability to double as a luscious dessert is showcased in this “pone” or sweetbread.Served at a Jamaican-themed booth in South Berkeley, I vowed to recreate these tasty treats when I returned to the East Coast. We ll worth the effort, cassava, or yucca, sweetbread always scores me “brownie” points at potlucks or get together with friends.

Recipe Cassava Pone
(aka Island-style Sweet bread)

2 cups peeled, shredded cassava (yucca, manioc)
1 cup coconut, shredded
1 1/4 cups sugar (or evaporated cane juice, if available)
1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
5 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola or other neutral oil)
1 cup coconut, rice, cow, or soy milk
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Peel and shred the cassava
  • Sometimes yucca can be found frozen, already peeled. This makes things a loteasier.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself if you do decide to peel it, as it has a very tough skin.
  • Also, remember that yucca is POISONOUS if it is not cooked all the way through. Literally.
  • You can shred it by hand with a box grater, or in a food processor with the shredder blade (easiest way).
  • Mix all ingredients together well in a large bowl.
  • Place mixture in a well-oiled 8 x 13 baking pan, I prefer using glass, pyrex, or enamel baking dish for this recipe.
  • Bake at 350 degrees in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Once it starts getting crispy golden colored on top and edges, it is almost done. Check at one hour. All ovens cook differently, so watch for the color change to gauge done-ness.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing into brownie-sized wedges.

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Cassava production set to drop

Cassava production is forecast to drop 7.74 per cent to 27.75 million tonnes next year, due to farmers turning more to fuel crops that bring higher prices, especially sugar cane.

Cassava was planted on 8.29 million rai of land last year, but that is expected to decrease 6.15 per cent to 7.78 million rai.

Of total cassava production, only 2.5 million tonnes will be used to produce ethanol, while the rest will go towards the manufacture of tapioca chips for export and as a pet-food ingredient for the local market.

Many factors have hurt production, including insects, lower rainfall, reduced yield per rai and a flow of cassava from neighbouring countries under the Asean Free Trade Area.

"The drop in production will halt the industry's growth, because there will not be enough raw material for the manufacture of tapioca flour," said Thai Tapioca Trade Association (TTTA) president Seree Denworalak.

As a result, the tapioca-products industry, including flour, starch and chips, will see flat export growth or only a slight drop next year. For instance, the association predicts this year's export of 2.14 million tonnes of tapioca flour will decline to 2 million tonnes next year. Domestic consumption of the product is forecast at 1 million tonnes next year, same as this year.

Seree said the yield per rai for cassava is also forecast to drop 1.68 per cent to 3.56 tonne per rai. The farm price for cassava is quoted at Bt1.60 to Bt1.80 per kilogram.

"The government's guaranteed price is suitable for supporting industry growth and farmers," he said, adding that at that price, exporters could maintain their export competitiveness.

Moreover, cassava growers spend Bt1.28 to produce a kilogram, down from Bt1.46 in the previous harvest season. The drop in the production cost has been in line with a lower oil price.

The TTTA has called for the government to control plant diseases and educate farmers about good strain selection.

Seree said the cassava price could reach Bt2 a kilogram late in the harvest season if the widespread problem of insects was not solved.

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Africa 100 project cash to support new Cassava project

The NFU and FARM-Africa have chosen a fledging project to receive cash from the Africa 100 Appeal. With funds reaching almost £200,000 one final push is being sought from the agriculture industry before a cheque is handed over to the charity in October.

Launched in the wake of droughts and the resulting poor availability of food in Kenya, the Cassava Project, operated by established charity FARM-Africa, aims to increase productivity on subsistence farms across the country and put an end to food insecurity for thousands of families.

The year-long fund raising appeal, launched as part of the NFU's centenary celebrations, has seen charity bikes rides, golf days, generous donations from industry supporters, and the livestock sector in particular, raising a phenomenal amount of cash. This effort is more poignant given the current economic situation and the uphill battle faced by appeal co-ordinator, and head of NFU Communications Sarah Whitelock, as she explains:

"We started the appeal in July 2008 when many farmers were enduring the expense of a long, wet summer, which has been closely followed by a global, economic down-turn and the resulting recession. However, the farming industry has pulled out all the stops to support Africa 100 and we are extremely grateful."

Cassava has a short shelf life so the project will also fund two new factories to turn the vegetable into dried chips and flour. This will increase the flexibility of the crop giving it a new market in local food industries and potential as an animal feed - a real boost for livestock farmers.

Ms Whitelock said: "Cassava is an important staple vegetable in both Uganda and Kenya as it has the potential to generate food security within a very short time. It grows well in marginal areas which means it can be cultivated where droughts are frequent and famine is a recurring menace.

"There were problems in the late 1980s and early 90s with disease which spread and devastated cassava crops in large parts of East Africa. Now, thanks to the vital work of FARM-Africa, a new disease-resistant variety has been introduced. This, and the addition of new, basic farming methods, has seen yields increase there from three to 15 tonnes per hectare. This has seen a reversal in the fortunes of farmers struggling to produce enough food to feed their families. Not only are they now self-sufficient but they also have enough produce left over to sell at the local market.

"I visited Kenya last year to see for myself how FARM-Africa helps these farmers and their families. Besides the impressive economic improvements, these projects also increase social cohesiveness. Household incomes are being used to improve housing and pay for school fees, as well as being invested in a range of other income-generating enterprises to benefit the whole community.

"Having witnessed the tremendous way FARM-Africa supports farmers and transforms their lives I am convinced that the Africa 100 Appeal has been a thoroughly worthwhile cause. It will make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of East African farmers and their families and is a tribute to the generosity of all the donors who have supported us over the past 12 months."

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