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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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