Photo Courtesy of CORAF.
Research organizations in diverse regions around the world are working with local farmers and bakers to incorporate cassava flour into bread. This food staple is now stimulating local economies and providing additional nutrition while building climate resilience.
Cassava is a woody shrub with edible roots that grows well in tropical and subtropical regions. Its starches are extracted to produce tapioca. Roughly half a billion people in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean depend on cassava for food and income. The shrub grows well in nutrient-poor soils, requires little water, and can withstand harsh conditions including temperature changes, making it a valuable crop for adapting to climate change.
The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research (CORAF) is Africa’s largest sub-regional research organization. It works with 23 African nations to help coordinate agricultural research and development. CORAF is working with the Union of Bakery Owners of Cote d’Ivoire to develop composite breads. They are adapting technology and processes developed in Senegal to substitute 15 percent or more of wheat flour with locally produced cassava and corn. The project has expanded to 50 bakeries in the towns of Abidjan, Bouaké, and Korhogo and works with local growers and millers to create a sustainable supply chain for composite bread production.
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) helps farmers in low-income countries improve crop production, incomes, and natural resource management. Its research focuses on sustainable management of tropical soils and policies for coping with challenges including climate change, environmental degradation, and gender inequities. CIAT conserves the world’s largest and most diverse collection of cassava and creates new varieties adapted for specific climates and conditions. Working with the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Corpoica), they developed thousands of new cassava strains, including three released in 2017 that are more resistant to pests, have a longer shelf life, and are adapted for the Caribbean coast. These varieties also produce higher yields, greater than 28 tons per hectare, and are improving the supply of cassava starch for the important Colombian bread industry.
These initiatives are providing multiple benefits. The lives of smallholder farmers are improving by increasing productivity and demand. Local economies are benefiting from a greater supply of raw materials. Consumers are enjoying greater nutrition, decreased costs, and more abundance.