Cassava, a tuber crop that is one of the most cultivated crops in the Tropical region of the world is said to have originated in Southern America.
Today, all over West Africa especially in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo, Burkina Fasso and Equatorial Guinea, it is a staple crop that is extensively cultivated on acres and hectares with some farmers even developing plantations of the staple crop and some also planting it jointly with other crops on the same plots of land.
One advantage which cassava has over most other crops, especially in Nigeria, is that it thrives in all parts of the country. It is not so particular about the type of soil where it is planted provided there is adequate sunshine and water for survival, but it thrives best in loamy and alluvial soils.
Cassava is one of the most economically important crops in Nigeria such that everything that needs to be done to keep it from going extinct in the country should be done now that there appears to be looming scarcity of the crop despite its value chain. Cassava as a food crop has a long value chain that has to be exploited to the betterment of the Nigerian economy. The crop has a number of species, some of which could be eaten raw, some of which could be roasted, some boiled to be consumed with oil, salt, pepper, groundnut, beniseed while the boiled one could also be pounded into foofoo to be consumed with soup. Cassava is also fried or grated and fermented then sieved for baking garri or producing akpu. It is also sliced into pellets that could be added to grains like maize, millet, Guinea corn or wheat to be ground into finely textured flour for whole meals.
Cassava has found great industrial value as it is used in the production of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry. It is also a vital component in the production of cosmetics and toothpaste s.
In the quest for alternative energy supply, cassava had been found to be a readily available option for the fast diminishing fossil fuels from the bowels of Nigeria. It is quite valuable in the production of industrial starch.
Its bye products are increasingly honouring their presence in the daily dietary provisions for millions of Nigerians. It is to be noted that many bakers of bread and cake now rely greatly on flour sourced from cassava just as those who also produce varieties of biscuit. It would appear as if it is only the tuber that makes the crop all-important in the value chain, but it should be recognized that the leaves are also processed into a delicious vegetable soup that could be textured with ground beans, groundnut or beniseed mixed with animal protein, fish protein or lobsters. This soup can go with eba, akpu, pounded potato, pounded yam, wheat, acha or any other grain flour whole meals.
Herbal medicine is one area that had always benefited from cassava. Here, herbalists make use of the stalk of some varieties of cassava in the concoction of some drugs in the treatment of some ailments.
Regrettably, ominous signs are appearing on the horizon that look threatening to the survival of this miracle crop in Nigeria. The fast disappearance of the stalk of the crop , which is the part used in the propagation of the crop presents a lot of worry to the farmer just as market forces that had driven some farmers to sell off whole farms unharvested
Another area of great concern is in natural disasters of flooding and insufficient rainfall in parts of the country. Also of threatening concern is the ever-increasing herder-farmer conflicts that had left many farmlands devastated by grazing cattle.
There is also to be acknowledged that inaccessibility to early availability of farm inputs like herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides as well as funds for labour and expansion cannot protect the value chain importance of cassava to the Nigerian economy.