Cassava for food use celebrated by F.A.O at Agrofest 2015

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean (FAO-SLC) promoted the nutritional benefits and diversity of cassava as a food crop at Agrofest, the largest Barbadian agricultural exhibition, which opened on Friday, 27 February and ended on Sunday, 1 March.

The agenda for the FAO’s participation at the exhibition included cooking demonstrations using the cassava crop, as well as a cassava-themed informational booth.

The demonstrations, which were co-organised by the FAO and the Dining Club and hosted by Barbadian Chefs Peter Edey and Rhea Gilkes, presented a wide range of recipes that encompassed breakfast, lunch and dessert options. In addition to witnessing the preparation of the meals, the delighted crowds also sampled the cassava-based dishes, which included fishcakes, cou-cou, pancakes and cheesecake.

The lively sessions allowed the FAO the opportunity to dispel myths associated with the cassava crop and to promote its wide-ranging health benefits and diversity in food use. Chefs Edey and Gilkes, who are well-versed in food preparation with local produce, urged the audience to incorporate the root crop for food use, extolling its gluten-free nature as a major benefit over wheaten flour. The chefs also commented on the crop’s high protein and carbohydrate content.

In his remarks at the cooking demonstrations, FAO’s Coordinator for the Caribbean, Dr Deep Ford, emphasised that an increased use of locally grown crops such as cassava would help to reduce CARICOM’s Food Import Bill, which stands at over USD 4 billion. He added that a wide adoption of the crop would also contribute to local job creation at the production, processing and marketing levels. Dr Ford also noted to the interested audience, that the FAO is actively involved in ensuring the inclusive development of the cassava industry in CARICOM.

FAO’s information booth displayed different varieties of the cassava crop as well as relevant publications that highlight the organisation’s role in the revitalisation and development of the regional cassava industry. Cassava cuttings and recipe calendars were amongst the items distributed to attendees at the booth. School children were entertained by the ‘Spin the Wheel’ game, which challenged their knowledge on FAO facts and trivia.

FAO's Caribbean Coordinator, Dr Deep Ford highlights the benefits of using cassava for food use at the FAO-sponsored "Cooking with Cassava" Demonstrations at Agrofest 2015

FAO’s Caribbean Coordinator, Dr Deep Ford highlights the benefits of using cassava for food use at the FAO-sponsored “Cooking with Cassava” Demonstrations at Agrofest 2015

A number of FAO’s personnel were on hand to offer advice to the booth’s visitors on planting, cooking and consuming the crop. Among the personnel in attendance at the information booth was FAO’s Regional Cassava Project Coordinator, Ms Vermaran Extavour, who explained to persons that the main variety of cassava grown in the Caribbean is the sweet variety of cassava. She reiterated that both the bitter and sweet varieties are safe to eat once cooked at temperatures of above 30° C.

The motto of this year’s Agrofest exhibition, “Inclusive Agriculture: Strengthening Linkages and Creating Synergies”, is particularly apt to the work of the FAO as it seeks to ensure the establishment of linkages for increasing productivity and competitiveness along the cassava value chain in CARICOM.

According to the FAO, cassava has the potential to replace 400 000 metric tonnes of wheaten flour in CARICOM countries; substitute up to 30% of the corn in poultry rations as well as a portion of other animal feeds and contribute to a reduction of the Food Import Bill by approximately 5%.

Growth and expansion of the cassava industry and the creation of inclusive linkages, as well as a robust promotion of the cassava crop to the public are therefore key to contributing to FAO’s mandate to safeguard food and nutrition security in CARICOM.

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