Cassava is a root vegetable that is important for food security in the tropics. It is the underground part of the cassava shrub, which has the Latin name Manihot esculenta. Like potatoes and yams, it is a tuber crop. Cassava roots have a similar shape to sweet potatoes.
Cassava was introduced into central Africa from South America in the sixteenth century by the early Portuguese explorers (Jones, 1959). It was probably the emancipated slaves who introduced the cassava crop into southern Nigeria, as they returned to the country from South America via the Islands of Sao Tome and Fernando Po. At that time there were Portuguese colonies off Nigeria's shores (Ekandem, 1962). Cassava, however, did not become important in the country until the end of the nineteenth century when processing techniques were introduced, as many more slaves returned home.
Nigeria is currently the largest producer of cassava in the world. As of 2017, it was estimated that Nigeria produced over 47million tonnes of cassava annually, making it a lucrative export business. In 2018, many initiatives and support programs were introduced which led to increasing in the quantity of cassava produced in Nigeria and farmers reported the collection of about 20 tonnes per hectare with a total of about 2 billion tonnes. This has become possible due to incredible efforts of special associations of those who plant this crop and take care of it in a proper way. As a rule, only little fertilizers are used to plant cassava, and this is why this crop requires a lot of human care. The impressive figures from cassava show that the production of cassava in Nigeria is still high and efficient. This commodity is produced for both external and internal needs and 24 states out of 36 states in Nigeria are involved in the production but the main production is concentrated in the southern states. Among these 24 states that are involved in the production of cassava, there are states with the highest production. These are Anambra State, Delta State, Edo State, Benue State, Cross River State, Imo State, Oyo State, Taraba State, and Rivers State, Kwara, and Ondo State. The growth of this industry is very quick and if there is the same or bigger need for this product, it is possible that the manufacturers will respond to the demand. Cassava in Nigeria is cultivated as many other regular crops in other countries. While the conditions for the propagation of this plant are absolutely suitable in Nigeria, it is possible to collect huge harvests. Since the crop has been there for many years, there are already effective techniques and technologies that allow processing the crop quickly and efficiently for both human and cattle.
HARVESTED CASSAVA READY TO BE PROCESSED
USES OF CASSAVA
Cassava is a rich, affordable source of carbohydrates. It can provide more calories per acre of the crop than other cereals which makes it a very useful crop in the developing world. People prepare and eat cassava in various ways in different parts of the world, with baking and boiling being the most common methods. In some places, people ferment cassava before using it.
It is essential to peel cassava and never eat it raw. It contains dangerous levels of cyanide unless a person cooks it thoroughly before eating it.
Dishes that people can make using cassava includes;
Bread, which can contain cassava flour only, o both cassava and wheat flour, French fries, mashed cassava, cassava chips, cassava bread soaked in coconut milk, cassava cake, cassava in coconut sauce, yuca con mojo; a Cuban dish that combines cassava with a sauce comprising citrus juices, garlic, onion , cilantro, cumin, and oregano.
In addition to eating cassava, people also use it for:
- Making tapioca, which is a common dessert for making starch and flour products, which people can use to make gluten-free bread
- Feeding animals
- Making medications, fabrics, paper, and building materials such as plywood.
BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS OF CASSAVA
One of the main benefits of this commodity is the fact that this plant can be planted in different climatic conditions and throughout the entire year. The most common harvests in Nigeria show dozens of tonnes per hectare of cassava fields. It’s much more than the harvest collected from fields with yam, beans, or some local sorts of peas.
Cassava health benefits include smoothening skin, supporting hair growth, supporting weight loss, aiding digestion, overcoming headaches, treating diarrhea, supporting eye health, curing fever, healing wounds, clearing up worms, supporting good appetite and supporting pregnancy.
However, the tubers consist almost entirely of starch and are particularly low in protein, so dependence on cassava leads to serious malnutrition. To make matters worse, some varieties, when grown under certain conditions of soil and climate, develop a high acid content and become extremely poisonous to people and livestock.
Raw cassava contains natural occurring forms of cyanide, which are toxic to ingest. Eating raw or incorrectly prepared cassava can lead to:
- Paralyzed legs in children
- Low levels of iodine
- Increased risk of goiter
- Tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN), a condition that is more common in older people and causes a loss of feeling in the hands, poor vision, weakness, walking problems, and the sensation something being on the feet
- Intoxication and eventual death.