Cassava farming in Nigeria, is one of the most popular and widely consumed food crops in Nigeria.
Caasava is scientifically called Manihot Esculanta, a tropical and perennial plant with a consumable root which serves as a major source of carbohydrate in human diet, containing high protein (20–27% crude protein) with condensed tannin’s (1.5–4% CP) used as a good roughage source for dairy.
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.
Cassava as a 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 such as cassava, 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.
Cassava Farming Cultivation
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 cassava from mature plants which are simply the best for planting. Cassava stem cuttings are vulnerable to adverse climatic conditions, pests, and diseases. If cassava stem cuttings are 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.
Cassava require regular weeding 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 of cassava 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 Benefits 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.
Other Health Effects Of Cassava
–Cassava enhances immunity
– Cassava has an anti-inflammatory effect
– Cassava normalises blood sugar level
– Cassava removes excess cholesterol from the body
– Cassava strengthens bones
– Cassava prevents Alzheimer’s disease and other CNS diseases
– Cassava normalises blood pressure and heart function
–Cassava slows down the ageing process.
Anti-Nutrients Contained in Cassava
Cassava which also serves as an 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.