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By Godfrey Olukya 28-5-2013

Improved cassava can save many African countries from hunger, a study by world food organization has revealed.

Cassava is grown in over 30 African countries. In some African communities it is a staple food.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO) if well selected cassava species is grown in big quantities, it will help in increasing on food on the African continent.

Save and Grow, an environmentally-friendly farming model promoted by FAO, can sustainably increase cassava yields by up to 400 percent and help turn this staple from a poor people’s food into a 21st Century crop, FAO said today.

In a newly-published field guide detailing Save and Grow’s applications to cassava smallholder production, FAO noted that global cassava output has increased by 60 percent since 2000 and is set to accelerate further over the current decade as policymakers recognize its huge potential.

But using the inputs-intensive approach pioneered during last century’s Green Revolution to boost cassava production risks causing further damage to the natural resource base and increasing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The solution, says FAO, lies in the Save and Grow approach which achieves higher yields with improved soil health rather than with the heavy use of chemical inputs. Save and Grow minimizes soil disturbance caused by conventional tillage such as ploughing, and recommends maintaining a protective cover of vegetation over soil.

Instead of the monocropping normally seen in intensive farming systems, Save and Grow encourages mixed cropping and crops rotation, and predicates integrated pest management, which uses disease-free planting material and pests’ natural enemies to keep harmful insects down, instead of chemical pesticides.

The approach has reportedly yielded spectacular results in trials organized in Viet Nam, where farmers using the improved technologies and practices boosted cassava yields from 8.5 tonnes to 36 tonnes,an increase of more than 400 percent.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, through training in the use of healthy planting materials, mulching and intercropping, farmers attending field schools achieved yield increases of up to 250 percent.

In Colombia, rotating cassava with beans and sorghum restored yields where mineral fertilizer alone had failed.

Cassava is a highly versatile crop grown by smallholders in more than 100 countries. Its roots are rich in carbohydrates while its tender leaves contain up to 25 percent protein, plus iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. Other parts of the plant can be used as animal feed, and livestock raised on cassava have good disease resistance and low
mortality rates.

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