With wheat prices being at an all time high, cassava, if given a keen attention could offer a solution.
It is worth noting that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has urged his people to turn to a diet of cassava as an antidote to the rocketing price of wheat during the current worldwide cost of living crisis.
"If there is no bread, eat muwogo (cassava)," he said.
Cassava is a root vegetable that is very popular in Kenya. It is the underground part of the cassava shrub. Like potatoes and yams, cassava is a tuber crop. Its roots take a similar shape to sweet potatoes.
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In June last year, the Kenya National Biosafety Authority approved genetically modified cassava which is resistant to cassava brown streak disease and developed by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO).
This was a welcome decision and a significant step to getting disease resistant cassava into the hands of Kenyan farmers and addressing food security challenges.
KALRO has been on the forefront of training farmers on cassava varieties and value addition targeting more than 500,000 smallholder farmers in Kisumu, Busia and Lamu counties.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), cassava is also highly adaptable to changes in climate. Among the major food crops of Africa (including maize, sorghum, millet, beans, potatoes and bananas), cassava is the least sensitive to the climate conditions predicted by 2030.
It is drought resistant, can grow almost anywhere, and is not easily destroyed by heavy rains.
Cassava is a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. The leaves, which are also edible if a person cooks them or dries them in the sun, can contain up to 25 per cent protein, according to Healthline.com.
Elizabeth Achieng, a cassava seller and farmer from Busia says cassava flour can be used for baking bread and cakes. The starchy root can be fermented, or processed for industrial use as a starch, alcohol or biofuel.
Occasionally, she visits the organic farmers market in Nairobi with her products to sell.
She however gave a disclaimer that cassava should not be eaten raw as they may be harmful.
“People should not eat cassava raw, because it contains naturally occurring forms of cyanide, which are toxic to ingest. Soaking and cooking cassava makes these compounds harmless,” said Achieng.
Eating raw or incorrectly prepared cassava can lead to severe side effects. Reports have identified several hazards of eating it and taking in too much active cyanide, including paralyzed legs in children, low levels of iodine, increased risk of goiter, intoxication and eventual death.
Varieties of cassava in Kenya include Nzalauka, Karibuni, Shibe, Tajirika, Karembo and Siri, which mature within six to 12 months.
Here are some of the products Achieng gets to make from cassava.
Dried cassava pieces (chips)
This is made from fresh cassava tubers. After harvesting, the tubers are peeled, washed and cut into pieces.
“As you peel and shred the tubers to pieces, remove as many fibers as you can,” said Achieng.
Sun-drying is the method farmers everywhere use to dry cassava chips. Other drying methods include using an oven, or blowing hot air. Drying prolongs the safe storage of the cassava pieces(chips).
After drying, ensure they are stored in clean bags.
“It is bad for chips to get wet during drying. Wetting the chips while they are drying will Ie to mold growth and increase spoilage,” she said.
A kilogram may go for Sh120.
From the dried cassava pieces, flour can be made by simply putting the chips in a grinding machine. The flour can be sifted and put in suitable packaging.
It is a great substitute for wheat and other flours. You can use it in any recipe that calls for wheat flour, making baking and cooking gluten-free meals easy. Many however like to mix it with other grains like millet and sorghum.
500 gram cassava flour sells at Sh130.
Achieng makes her cassava bread purely from the cassava flour, without mixing it with any other form of flour. It is also yeast-free and dairy-free.
Here are the instructions to make the cassava flour bread.
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Insert a piece of parchment paper into a nine by five loaf pan.
Make sure the paper is long enough that sides are easy to lift the loaf out of the pan once it is done. If you do not have parchment on-hand, grease the loaf pan well or coat thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.
The number of bread you want to make will depend on the amount of ingredients used. Essentially the ingredients required are cassava flour, eggs, baking powder, salt, apple cider vinegar, honey or maple syrup, avocado oil and water.
Grab a medium and a large mixing bowl.
Beat eggs in the medium mixing bowl. Add apple cider vinegar, honey, avocado oil and water to the bowl (not necessary to mix).
Add cassava flour, salt and baking powder to the large mixing bowl. Whisk to mix the dry ingredients together.
Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine, breaking down larger lumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and place in a preheated oven for one hour.
Remove from the oven. Carefully remove bread from loaf pan and place on a cooling rack to cool for at least an hour before cutting.
Allow bread to come to room temperature (at least two hours) before packaging it.
She sells 400 grams of bread at Sh280.
Cassava chips offer a tasty alternative to traditional potato chips. Made from sliced cassava – these chips have a mellow flavor, hearty crunch and sturdy structure.
To make cassava crisps, you need fresh cassava, as needed oil, as needed salt. You can add chili or any other flavor to taste.
Peel the cassava. Slice them thinly. One can use a knife to slice them thin. Or use a mandolin to slice them.
Heat oil for deep frying. Drop chips in hot oil and fry until crispy and golden. Drain them in a colander lined with a paper towel.
Season with salt and chilli powder.
200 grams of crisps go for Sh200.