FAO Launches a Regional Project to Support the Development of the Cassava Industry in CARICOM Countries

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a regional project to support the development of the cassava industry at an Inception Workshop and Regional Working Group Meeting that took place 17 – 19 February 2015 in Barbados.

Seven countries – Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia plus St. Vincent and the Grenadines – are direct participants in the USD 500,000 project. All other CARICOM member countries will benefit from the project outputs, which aims to replace up to 30% of wheat flour with cassava in baked products, cassava in feed products and other industrial and household uses.

The Workshop, which was held 17-18 February, included the participation of national coordinators and representatives of several partner agencies. The sessions served as a critical knowledge-sharing and technical platform, in which participants learnt and discussed a range of issues that are crucial to the successful development and execution of national and regional action plans related to the development of the cassava industry. Amongst the topics discussed were: cassava product processing, cassava market development and linkages for increasing productivity and competitiveness along the cassava value chain

Speaking at the Inception Workshop, Dr. Deep Ford, FAO’s Coordinator for the Caribbean, reiterated FAO’s commitment to the development of the regional cassava industry, noting that cassava can become a new pillar of economic development and agricultural revitalisation. In addition, increased use of this crop may also contribute to a reduction of the food import bill. Furthermore, cassava is a climate-smart crop, which tolerates drought and some degree of flooding. It is gluten-free and has other attractive health benefits.

Dr Deep Ford, FAO’s Coordinator for the Caribbean, speaks to participants at the Inception Workshop.

Dr Deep Ford, FAO’s Coordinator for the Caribbean, speaks to participants at the Inception Workshop.

Dr. Ford noted while the regional project focuses on processing and market development of the cassava crop, FAO is also supporting work to improve field production systems and yields. This work is being done in collaboration with partners such as CARDI and the Ministries of Agriculture. In addition, FAO is working towards the implementation of a regional cassava policy in close collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat and IICA, under a project funded by the European Union (EU).

The Third Meeting of the Regional Cassava Working Group (RCWG), which took place on 19th February, stressed on the need for a comprehensive strategy to increase the involvement of relevant national and regional stakeholders and the private sector. The working group agreed on agency assignments related to planting material development, processing machinery adoption and cassava market development.

The FAO continues its promotion of cassava at the annual Agrofest event in Barbados, to be held 27 February-1 March. The organisation will establish a booth in the informational section at the event, which will feature relevant publications, cassava crops and cuttings. FAO has also partnered with Chefs Rhea Gilkes and Peter Edey to host a round of cooking competitions that will highlight the nutritional benefit and diversity of cassava as a food crop.

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