This is with reference to the column co-authored by Luca Alinovi and Roberto Ridolfi, “Cassava, an engine for rural development in the region”, published in The New Times on September 9.
Cassava has been ignored for a long time mainly because of its low nutritious value. Cassava is rich in carbohydrates, but poor in some essential nutrients required for a healthy person.
With nil/zero proteins and vitamins, low minerals cassava is truly the poor man’s food. With regard to its economic potential, cassava can truly uplift the status of the rural poor if used for industrial starch and bio-fuel.
But the challenge remains that other crops like beans, maize, soya, groundnuts and sunflower still beat cassava in being more nutritious with capacity to provide multiple nutrients like proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates.
Considering Rwanda’s population density and the rampant land fragmentation, Rwandans are more suited to a crop with multiple nutrients to serve both subsistence and commercial needs.
However, for farmers with larger pieces of land – in the regions of 25 hectares – mixed cropping of multiple nutrient crops and commercial cassava farming would be appropriate.
This is mainly to mitigate the prevalence of malnutrition and avoid situations of excessive consumption of carbohydrates without proteins, vitamins and minerals leads to deficiency diseases like marasmus and kwashiorkor.
James Munanura, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda