By Monique Washington
The development of cassava on a commercial scale was discussed during a two-day workshop sponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) moderated by Vermaran Extavour, FAO project coordinator from Trinidad and Tobago. Ten participants attended May 8-9 formal meetings at the Red Cross Building in Charlestown and workshops at Kevin Chapman’s Bakery in Bath Village.
Extvaour said introducing cassava as a substitute for wheat in break-making is part of an FAO initiative to reduce the US $42 billion spent in the region to import wheat.
The events were attended by participants from hotels, bakeries, agro processors and agro processing plant employees. Speaking with the Observer on Wednesday at the closing ceremony Permanent Secretary in Agriculture, Eric Evelyn noted that cassava is being grown on the island, but not on a commercial scale. He said informed that the department is making plans to begin planting cassava on a wider scale.
“Due to the demand for cassava, especially around Easter, the Department of Agriculture is planning to establishing five acres for cassava to start,” Evelyn explained. “We are hoping farmers will come on board and plant a half acres or even quarter acres.”
Evelyn noted cassava is one of the easiest crop to grow anywhere around the world as it is drought- resistant. The crop only needs water to get started. After the workshop, Evelyn has high expectations for cassava.
“We hope that after this workshop the demand for cassava can increase, not only at Easter time but year round,” Evelyn said.
Extavour pointed out that the FAO initiative came about when the heads of government through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) endorsed the development of nontraditional crops.
“In so doing there began a regional cassava conference to understand what is happening in the industry,” Extavour said. “We have now formulated a cassava working group made up of agencies, FAO, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute (CARDI), Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) commission. Through this regional mechanism FAO has been identified as the coordinating entity for the development of cassava.”
“I worked primarily in area nutrition and agro business prior to joining the FAO,” Extvour said. “What I bring to the table is some of the work in using cassava to replace 40 percent of wheat in bread making.”
She said that the main objective is to help countries reduce their import bill and emphasized the importance of making a strong linkage from farmer, to processor, to supplier then to consumer.
“One thing that Nevis will need to do to make this sustainable is establish a value chain committee,” Extvour explained. “The value chain committee brings the stakeholders along the entire chain together to coordinate activities and to work together to develop this product all with the objective to reduce the feed import bill.”
At the closing ceremony bread that was baked using 40 percent was on display and samples provided for tasting. Participants thanked the facilitator for introducing them to another way of making bread.