Balangiga Farmer-Fisherfolk’s Wives Learn How to Make Food Products from Dried Cassava Grates

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Eight members of the Fisheries and Agricultural Crop Producers Association of Bacjao (FACPAB) from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, were trained on cassava food processing last 25-26 March 2019 at the Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center of the Visayas State University, Baybay City, Leyte.

FACPAB is one of the 14 pilot groups composed of farmer-fisherfolks enrolled in the Aqua-based Business School (ABS) in Eastern Visayas, a joint-endeavor of the Fisheries, Coastal Resources, and Livelihood Project implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-FishCORAL Project) and the Food Resilience Through Root and Tuber Crops in Upland and Coastal Communities of the Asia-Pacific (FoodSTART+) Project implemented by the International Potato Center (CIP) in the Philippines. ABS is a value chain development methodology adapted from the Farmer Business School (FBS) first piloted by CIP in Indonesia in 2008.

The training is part of the group’s slated activities under the fifth ABS module, where the groups identify and test potential innovations. The group focused on cassava as their chosen commodity, for which they also received training on production and farming practices from the Municipal Agriculture Office of Balangiga. Additionally, quality planting materials of a local cultivar (Kaplutan) and a high-yielding variety (Rayong 5) — ideal for food processing — from PhilRootcrops were also introduced in the area for mass propagation and distribution to other farmers in the community. Better varieties coupled with improved farming practices can contribute to a higher yield and quality of cassava.

During the training, Dr. Julie D. Tan, Head of PhilRootcrops’ post-harvest division, gave an introduction on the health benefits and livelihood opportunities of root crops. “Does eating root crops like cassava and sweetpotato (camote) help you lose weight?” asked Ms. Ma. Hilda Pabillo, training participant and FACPAB member, to which Dr. Tan answered positively, mentioning how the low glycemic index (GI) of root crops coupled with their high-fiber content helps reduce weight. The participants learned from Ms. Lucenita Estoy, PhilRootcrops’ resident food processing expert, how to make various products from cassava using processing methods developed by VSU-PhilRootcrops such as cassava chips, macaroons, pichi-pichi (cassava cake with coconut), espasol (rice cake), cookies, jolly roll and yuca sticks (fried cassava sticks). Then Dr. Tan proceeded with a discussion on food safety and hygiene in food processing, a topic she gave high emphasis to the participants since they plan to venture into larger-scale commercial production.

FACPAB ladies trying their hand in making cassava chips with malunggay (moringa) sheets (top left) and cassava espasol (top right). A participant assists Ms. Estoy in frying yuca sticks (bottom left). Mr. Cinto discussing the cassava extruder (bottom right).

PhilRootcrops’ Processing Facility Officer-in-Charge Mr. Jojo Cinto facilitated the group in their visit to the facility. There, he presented and discussed several root crop processing equipment such as the cassava grates and flour system, extruder, vacuum fryer, and dehydrator. These are some of the equipment that FACPAB may acquire in the future if they decide to endeavor into a more complex enterprise.

Cassava chips with malunggay leaves in plain and chocolate flavors.

FACPAB is one of the five groups from the first ABS batch that participated in the recently conducted Stakeholders’ Validation Workshop in Tacloban City last 4-5 April 2019, where they showcased their prototype cassava chips, macaroons, yuca sticks and jolly rolls. In a one-to-five acceptability scale, five being the highest, their products’ overall acceptability ranged from 3.7 (macaroons) to 4.5 (cassava chips). Not bad for a group that was trained only the previous week. The SVW is particularly important in the product development process of the ABS groups. They received helpful feedback for their products such as “yuca sticks and jolly rolls should be uniform in size”, “macaroons tastes good but is slightly burnt,” and “improve product presentation by improving labels and put additional information such as net weight and ingredients” for their packaging. All the ABS groups were requested by the stakeholders to provide their products’ complete nutrition information to be able to penetrate to a larger market. Another SVW will be conducted on 24-25 April for the second batch of ABS groups to present their product prototypes to their stakeholders.

Together with other ABS groups, the FACPAB products will be showcased during the Business Launch organized by FishCORAL and FoodSTART+ on 29 May 2019 in Tacloban City.

Written and photos by Guada Babilonia