The Cassava Challenges

Technical challenges and opportunities. Some priority technical challenges are cassava viruses and their whitefly vectors, weeds, low nutritive quality, post harvest physiological degradation. Other challenges are long maturation duration, low and unstable dry matter and starch contents, high cyanogenic levels, poor cooking qualities, cassava bacterial blight and root rot in forested areas. Unfavourable plant architecture and low nitrogen use efficiency will also need attention. Cross cutting issues that will need to be addressed to accelerate advances in breeding and genetic improvement include: double haploids, genetic heterosis and apomixis, genome wide selection technology, development of cassava artificial seeds for commercial production, genomics and bioinformatics, and use of cassava waste to produce high quality feeds.

Development challenges and needs. A common belief is that among major issues affecting the poor productivity of cassava are the lack of development of crop management and the lack of markets for products made from cassava. These issues have been solved in countries where cassava has been industrialized, though not yet in Africa. Current efforts consist in developing a strategy based on a vision of cassava making a major contribution to food security, increasing income generation potential through marketing of traditional and processed cassava products, driving rural development through industrial cassava production for food and industrial purposes. Another common belief is that some of the cassava production in Africa will have to be industrialized to make an array of local products that will help support a sustainable seed system and extension services, in turn benefiting small holders.

Alleviating poverty, freeing women and children for more valued activities and education. Cassava has been strictly associated with poverty as a crop capable of producing food in any circumstance. Consequently cassava farmers will pull out of poverty providing they manage to increase cassava productivity. The world community has to undertake every possibility to give those farmers a chance to produce more of a better crop. Women and children are heavily involved in the production, processing and marketing of cassava. Topics of attention should be weed control in cassava fields with chemicals and other means, improving efficacy of cassava processing in order to return children to school and provide women with more financial resources, for a better investment in education and health of their children. GCP21 will consistently work on these topics to specifically target women and children welfare, education and health.