Cassava Cultivation: A Way Out of Recession
By: Adeyemi Adejola
Manihot Esculenta (commonly called cassava) is a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family. It is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and sub-tropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrate.
Cassava is the third largest source of food carbohydrate in the tropics after rice and maize and is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils.
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava mostly extensively cultivated crops in the Southern part of the country; it contributes largely to the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) and a major source of income to the farmers.
Cassava is an important source of food in the tropics, it plays a particularly important role in agriculture developing countries because it does well on poor soils and with little rainfall, and because it is a perennial crop that can be harvested as required.
It is used in some industries for production of bio-degradable products, production of feeds for livestock and it is also a rich source of carbohydrates for humans.
Cassava production is usually faced with myriad of problems ranging from pests and diseases (cassava mosaic, cassava bacterial blight, root rots, land dilapidation, damage by live stocks etc.)
Farmers who desire the cultivation of cassava are faced with start-up capital, land and necessary human resources posed a lot of challenge to farmers, leaving them with little or no start-up fund. Only few farmers’ have access to loans provided by the government or agriculture based financial institutions.
Despite the fact that Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava, there is still need to increase the production of cassava for export purpose.
In this wise, what should be considered by the government to ensure sustainable cassava production include; support towards industrial uses of cassava, investment in the transportation sector to help transport cassava produce into the market, provision of agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation systems to help support cassava cultivation.
Government can also help ease the cultivation of cassava by helping in the processing and marketing of cassava produce, invest in cassava processing, storage and packaging, increase cassava production by supporting farmers financially and provision of lands to farmers who are willing to go into cassava farming.
Government should place more emphasis on agriculture as a key business sector for the nation’s economic growth, which like other sectors, requires the engagement of organised private sector across the critical value-chain by way of provision of easy and cheap financing and support systems, including equipment, processing, transportation, distribution and marketing support.