Cassava is one of the major stable foods in Ghana as it supplies large quantities of calories in the diets of Ghanaians. In most cases, cassava production in Ghana is done by small-scale farmers and the tubers can be boiled and fried to be consumed. Apart from being used as feed ingredients and food, the crop is used in the production of various industrial products in Ghana. For instance, it is recognized as one of the best raw materials for the manufacture of ethanol. Additionally, production of cassava in Ghana is an important economic activity to the people since the crop can be processed into different food products that have high economic value.
History of cassava production in Ghana
The crop made its way to the western Africa region in the 16th century and since that period; cassava has made substantial contributions to the livelihood of the populace. Cassava farming in Ghana was introduced from its native country Brazil to Ghana in 16th and 17th century and later spread to other West African nations and the Caribbean Islands by the Portuguese. In Ghana, the Portuguese planted cassava crop around their trading harbors, citadels, and fortresses whereby it served as the main food consumed by both Portuguese and slaves. By the end of the 18th century, cassava had become the main crop that was grown in the coastal plains.
Cassava is one of the leading tuber crops that offers the highest production of food energy and is a staple food for millions of households across the globe. Cassava starch production in Ghana has been successful over the years since many people depend on cassava roots as their main food. This is because cassava has a high content of starch and the crop has substantial amounts of various minerals such as dietary fiber, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
According to a recent study conducted in Ghana, there is a significant decrease in cholesterol levels, and this might help reduce triglyceride levels due to its high total dietary fiber content. Additionally, a different study has indicated that cassava can help support the nervous system and assists in alleviating stress, anxiety and bowel syndrome. The crop also has numerous benefits since the cassava leaves can be used as a drug that can cure various diseases such as rheumatism, headaches, fever, wounds, diarrhea, intestinal worms, dysentery, night blindness, and beri-beri.
Varieties of cassava
There are numerous cassava varieties in Ghana. However, there are some local and introduced varieties that are characterized and evaluated for yield, pest and disease tolerance and cooking quality. They include Bankehema and Akabom, which are good for Futu, Gari, Agblema, and Starch while the third one, Esam is suitable for Gari, Agblema and Starch.
1. Choosing the right site for cassava farming
Cassava is a plant that can do well in tropical and sub-tropical areas. For this reason, the crop will be successful if planted in areas with more or less distributed rains in the entire year. A moderate temperature ranging from 25-30 degree Celsius is ideal for the crop and in most cases, the plant thrives at sea level to up to 845 meters above sea level. Additionally, it will do well if cultivated at the beginning of a rainy season.
Make sure you plant your cassava in a flat or undulating slope of less than 15%. However, in case the slope of your piece of land is very steep, try to make good use of water and soil conservation methods. For instance, you can use Sloping Agricultural Land Technology or SALT that is precisely the formation of delineation shrubberies. Make sure the cassava farming is done on an open field and the type of the soil will range from Sandy loam to clay loam. For better cassava production, the soil pH should range from 5.5-6.5.
Note that cassava crop is known to produce low harvest and misshapen tubers when exposed to harsh climatic conditions such as drought stress in the first 90 days after planting. For this reason, make sure there is sufficient rainfall or reliable source of water that can support the growth of cassava plants throughout the year. Additionally, make sure your cassava plantation is in a well-drained piece of land, whereby there is no water-logging for more than one day. This will help you prevent the young cassava crops from experiencing stunted growth. Furthermore, the mature cassava plant can go bad if they are waterlogged for more than one day.
2. Preparing the land
Make sure you cultivate and till the land more than two times twice with the help of a tractor or animal-drawn plow and harrow. These operations must be done when there is enough soil moisture. Cultivate the land at least six inches deep.
3. Preparing the required materials
Make sure you choose the stems that are physiologically mature, fresh and healthy. A healthy stem is that one that is not infested with insects, pests and it must be free from diseases. It must not have a diameter of more than 1.5 cm. A fresh stem is recognized once it oozes out the latex or sap immediately after cutting. This is because pieces that are cut from healthy and fresh stems are free of pests and diseases and for this reason, they will have a higher rate of sprouting and yield higher tuber harvest.
Use a sharp bolo to cut the stem vertically to form a V-shape. If you are not ready to plant the stems yet, store them in a cool and shady place. Storing the stems under the cool and dry condition is possible up to one month. While storing, ensure that the base of the stem faces the ground. Never should you allow the stems to lie on the ground to prevent propagation of the eye buds. Bear in mind that a stem that has sprouted eye buds will die when subjected to sunshine. The length of the stem should range from 15-30 cm and the stake must have at least 7 feasible nodes. Handle the cuttings with great care since throwing them aimlessly will damage the nodes.
4. Soil preparation
So that the crop can grow well, cassava roots require soil that has been perfectly plowed and loosened by the hoe or plow. After plowing, during the start of a rainy season, prepare the soil by forming mounds or ridges. This will help to disintegrate the soil so that it can store up enough water and to allow the roots to have sufficient loose earth in which they can grow.
Apply your fertilizers and manure into the soil when it is plowed since you will get high Yields when the crop gets enough nourishment in the soil. Therefore, Farmyard manure, compost, and green manure are the most recommended types of manure to use of your cassava farming. This is because the farmyard manure or compost is the best organic manures that supplement the soil with organic matter and mineral salts. You can as well use mineral fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
5. How to plant cassava
When planting the cassava, you are required to shove the stems into the soil and make sure the end of the stake of the stem that was nearer to the ground goes into the soil. The stakes should be pushed in the mounds or ridges of the soil and this must be done on a wet soil, just after the start of the rainy season. You can grow the cuttings either straight or slant and make sure you perfectly push them into the soil and leave 2 or 3 buds above ground.
However, the Cassava stakes can be planted on a straight position or the slanting position. Press the soil surrounding the cuttings to allow the developing roots to well-nourished by the soil.
In most cases, the rows should be 1 to 1.5 meters apart, and the cuttings one meter apart.
According to statistics on cassava production in Ghana, with this type of spacing, be sure that you will have between 7 000 and 10 000 cassava yield per acre. Note that number of cuttings used in one hectare will vary with the area, type of soil and variety of cassava used. If you plant your cassava at the right density, be sure to get a heavy yield. This is because the roots will occupy the large percentage of soil while the weeds will have less space to grow, those fewer cultivations are required.
6. Controlling weeds in a cassava plantation
Make sure you weed your cassava plantation once the plants reach a height of 20 to 25 centimeters high, and this should be around 21 to 28 days after planting. Your second weeding period should be between 30 to 60 days after the preliminary weeding. Earth up the crops at the same time since this assists in the creation of cassava tubers and plays a vital role in preventing the wind from blowing the crops. After this, the cassava plants will have matured and they will be safe from being attacked by weeds. Make sure you do a regular inspection and if you regularly to check out if the mounds have been spoilt by the rains. Repair all the damaged mounds or ridges and in case the soil of the mounds are too hard, try to break them using a how to allow water and air to get in and nourish the roots.
7. Control of diseases
Mosaic: this is one of the common diseases that attack the plant. The cassava leaves that are attacked by this disease will appear crumpled and they will light spots. Note that the yields of the crop will be affected if the attack is serious and for this reason, you need to control the disease.
Means of controlling the mosaic disease are not yet known. To avoid it, do not take cuttings from plants attacked by the disease. Since the controlling mechanism of the disease is not yet known, you are advised to plant cassava varieties that have are resistant to mosaic. Make sure you burn all the plants that are attacked by the disease as a way of preventing the spread of mosaic to other regions.
Rot: Rot will damage the cassava roots and it will occur if the cassava plantation has been flooded for many days. The tubers will turn soft and produce unpleasant scent and hence they are not good for human or animal consumption. Make sure you don’t plant your cassava in a flooded region to avoid the rotting. If a cassava farm is waterlogged heavy rains when the tubers are ready for harvest, you must uproot the tubers from the earth promptly before they begin to rot.
8. Control of pests
Rodents: small animals such as agoutis, rats, and rabbits are the main rodents that lead to a significant damage in a cassava plantation. These animals love feasting on the stems, the young shoots, and also the roots.
Wild boars, pigs, and other animals: Other animals like wild boar and the pig can also bring a huge damage to your field. They are fond of pushing over the crops and digging up large quantities of tubers. The only way to control all these animals is to put some poison in the fields, lay traps, or dig deep ditches around the cassava fields.
Insects: termites will start eating the stakes when cassava is planted a couple of days before the heavy rains. You can wait for the rains to start before planting your crops to avoid this costly damage. Alternatively, you can dip the stems in insecticide before you plant them.
Thrips and some other types of insects will feast on sap by piercing the stems and leaves of cassava while some insects will eat cassava leaves and the undeveloped shoots. Once these insects come in huge numbers, they will cause significant damage to the plantation. You can use insecticides to control them.
Red spiders are small creatures that can cause great damage to cassava field. Great numbers of the red spiders will hide on the lower side of the leaves. They are fond of feeding on the sap of the crop by piercing the leaves. Once they attack the leaves, they leave will develop some brown spots on the bottom and the moment the crop is attacked, it will have stunted growth thus affecting the total yield. Spray your crops with water and nicotine, with rotenone, and white oil to control red spiders. In case the diseases, animals, and insects cause severe damage to your cassava plantation, try to contact an experienced agricultural extension officer in Ghana. The specialist will advise you what do or how to control diseases.
9. How to harvest cassava
Base on the variety you planted, harvesting of the crop for cassava starch production in Ghana can start from the seventh month after planting the stakes for early types of cassava, or after the tenth month for late types of cassava.
It is not good to harvest the crop before this period elapse since the tubers are very small and they still have a high quantity of prussic acid.
During the harvesting period, that must be, between the 6th and 12th month, every fully grown cassava tuber of cassava will weigh between 1 or 2 kgs. Note that the weight will depend on the on the variety.
In a small scale farming arrangement, a farmer is allowed to harvest the tubers as per the requirement. Without disturbing the stems, start by getting the largest tubers from every crop and leave the smaller ones to grow. However, if you had a cassava production business plan to sell to a factory, you can harvest all the cassava at the same time. Note that you will get high yields of cassava roots and starch is highest when the plant is 18 to 20 months old.
10. How to store cassava
The moment you uproot the crop, it cannot be stored for long, since the tubers will start to rot once they are out of the soil. For this reason, it is not good to harvest more tubers that your family can consumer while they are fresh, or sell instantly. Cassava will stay longer if they are left in the earth, but you need to make sure that the soil is not too wet.
Remarkable daily uses of cassava in Ghanaian households
Fufu; this is is one the common staple food in the majority of in Ghanaian homes. The key ingredient used for preparing fufu is cassava. Cassava flour is cooked alongside with plantain and pulverized into a thick smooth paste. Once ready, the delicious meal is enjoyed with soups prepared from palm nut, light, and groundnut.
Kokonte: Kokonte is one of the healthiest meals that is loved by many Ghanaians. It is also known as lapiiwa, the face of the wall and abetie. In most cases, it is prepared from cassava flour and mostly served with groundnut soup garnished with okro.
Bankyi kaklo: also known as agbli kaklo, this meal is a is a locally prepared snack that is usually sold on the roads. It is mainly made from Made from cassava and it can be served with hard coconut fruit.
Gari: this is a common meal among the majority of households in Ghana that comes from cassava. It's also mostly enjoyed by school going children when soaked with water, sugar, groundnut, and milk. Additionally, you can also make the most cassava dough from the flour.
Starch; Starch is locally extracted from peeved cassava and it can be used to strengthen clothes when ironing to gives your outfits a stiff, crisp and proficient appearance.
Note that Cassava is the most perishable of crops that can get damaged within two or three days after they are harvested. Furthermore, the tubers are required to have cyanogenic glucosides reduced to a level that is suitable and benign for consumption. This is one of the many problems of cassava production in Ghana. As a result, the crop is taken to cassava processing companies in Ghana whereby it will be sold as a processed product.
Problems of cassava production in Ghana
There are myriad of challenges that both the large scale and small scale farmers experience when producing cassava. Most of the problems related to the production processing and storage of cassava. These include Limited Planting material such as stem cuttings, insufficient land because of land tenure systems, and utilization of ineffective tools such as crude implements. Another major problem that is faced by farmers is lack of modern technology to control and Pest and disease
1. Low productivity
Even though cassava is an essential crop with numerous uses, it does not get the required attention during the production process. In most cases, you will find farmers cultivating the crop poor and unfertile soils, where other plants such as maize have failed to thrive. In some cases, cassava is planted as an alternative crop with other nutrient-demanding plants such as like maize or sorghum, just in case the main crop fails. Cassava is mainly a crop for small-scale farmers, who just plant the crop for subsistence, using traditional equipment and plant on a small and fragmented piece of land. Cassava production is further cut down by infections by various diseases.
2. The high rate of post-harvest losses
Poor post-harvest handling has resulted to the irregular quality of the produced cassava leading to the in contagion by fungi. Deprived and insufficient facilities for cassava processing and storage alongside and poor accessibility to roads, which play a vital role in adding value, also escalates the post-harvest handling problems.
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Source: Yen Ghana