World-leading research and development on cassava by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich (NRI) has been honored with a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is to present the university with a silver gilt medallion and prize-winner’s certificate during a special reception at Buckingham Palace next year.
The prize recognizes NRI’s research and development in the field of cassava, the tropical root crop predominantly grown by smallholder farmers in the developing world, especially in Africa, where it is an important staple food for millions.
Cassava faces a number of challenges: it is vulnerable to attack by pests and virus diseases and faces obstacles to market access, storage and handling issues and a short shelf-life. It has also received less investment than other crops resulting in significant gaps in knowledge.
The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) began working with NRI in 2013 on a key project called ‘Driving livelihood improvements through demand-oriented interventions for competitive production and processing of cassava’. The project largely focusses on sub-Saharan African countries, which is a key region for NRI’s work on cassava.
Research included analyzing and improving cassava peeling technologies to reduce time, energy and product losses for cassava processors, who are mainly women, in countries including Nigeria. Two key technologies used by smallholder farmers in Tanzania for drying cassava peels were also evaluated, leading to recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of the process for farmers.
Studies to understand consumer preferences have also been carried out to assess how new processing technologies and improved cassava varieties may impact key cassava products like gari and fufu. Qualitative research also analyzed how men and women perceive and rate the quality of processed cassava products.
The project ‘Driving livelihood improvements through demand-oriented interventions for competitive production and processing of cassava’ is funded by RTB and involves partners including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cirad, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and of course, NRI.
RTB Program Director, Graham Thiele, commented that NRI “is a strategic partner for RTB in post-harvest innovation and we are absolutely delighted with the wonderful news and well earned recognition for path-breaking research.”
Advancements in cassava research will also be a key feature at the upcoming World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, due to take place in Nanning, Guangxi, China, from 18 – 22 January 2016. The Congress will bring together the world’s foremost experts in the field, including representatives from NRI, RTB, CIAT, IITA and Cirad, to share advice, review scientific progress, and identify and set priorities for future research, along with raising awareness of the global importance of root and tuber crops like cassava.