A combination of rising food prices, political instability and lack of technological progress in farming have meant that improvements in child nutrition here have proved hard to come by.
It\’s that last. The Green Revolution worked in wheat, rice, maize….but no one\’s really done it yet for the African staple crops. Cassava, sweet potatoes, even bananas (which in some areas provide a really surprising percentage of caloric intake).
That\’s what is actually needed: to continue Norman Bourlag\’s work and direct it to those African crops. And it is what Bourlag was doing towards the end of his life. It had to be provately funded though as, for some very strange and weird reason, none of the aid agencies were interested in funding the one thing that had already saved the odd few hundred million or billion lives.
We also get the flat out lie which is common in such pieces:
Cassava root, ground to a flour and cooked up as a doughy paste, is a traditional staple. It fills children up but has almost no nutritional value.
Bollocks. It is low in protein, this is true, not a huge amount of vitamins in it either. But it contains carbohydrates and yes, carbohydrates are indeed nutrition.
Its composition shows 60-65 percent moisture, 20-31 percent carbohydrate, 1-2 percent crude protein and a comparatively low content of vitamins and minerals. However, the roots are rich in calcium and vitamin C and contain a nutritionally significant quantity of thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid.
Note those penultimate two vitamins: we tend to add them to cereals made from maize precisely because maize does not contain these essentials. Indeed, maize on its own is an insufficient diet: pellagra caused by an excessive reliance on incorrectly processed maize. Just as kwashiokor can be casued by an excessive reliance upon cassava….it\’s the protein lack there.
But can we please get this straight? Cassava may well be an insufficient source of the total nutrition required but it is not true to say that it \”has almost no nutritional value\”. Cassava plus eggs plus fruit would not be a particularly delicious diet but it would be sufficient. Carbohydrates, protein and vitamins…..