Thirty focal persons from the 16 Regional Field Units (RFUs) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) attended the two-batch trainings on Cassava Processing and Utilization held at the PhilRootcrops Training Hall of the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City, Leyte. The first batch was held last December 6-8, 2011 with 21 participants from 16 regions, while the second batch was held on January 10-12, 2012 attended by 7 focal persons from Regions V, VI, VII and VIII.

 

The trainings were part of the initial activity to promote cassava as staple food in relation to the implementation of the Staple Food Sufficiency Program of DA. Under this program, white corn, sweetpotato, cassava and banana are considered as staple food to supplement rice. The program helps address food insecurity and poverty, greatly reduce rice importation, and save on foreign exchange.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Julieta R. Roa, Director of the Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops), emphasized that the Center wants to promote cassava and other rootcrops not just as sources of energy comparable to rice but also of vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients. "That is why our new vision targets enhancing health, creating wealth, and improving the lives of millions from rootcrops," Dr. Roa said.

She added that cassava and other rootcrops are adaptable to a wide range of environments and are not difficult to grow. "We are experiencing extreme drought or extreme rain simply because of this climate change. Cassava and other rootcrops are good alternative food crops since they can easily adapt to a wide range of extreme conditions," explained Roa.

The PhilRootcrops Director also revealed that there are a lot of health benefits from rootcrops just like cassava, sweetpotato, yam, taro and other lesser known rootcrops in which they have different ways of contributing to nutrition security and health.

She also reiterated that PhilRootcrops considers it as an obligation to promote rootcrops because millions of people suffer from hunger, not because there is not anything but because they just do not have the information. "Rootcrops can easily be grown as garden crops but farmers do not want to plant rootcrops because they have very limited market.

However, Dr. Roa is very optimistic that if people are only aware that there is health and wealth in rootcrops, then there will be increased in production, consumption, and thus, the market.

Dr. Roa is very hopeful that with the training, the participants who are the focal persons for cassava processing nationwide are expected to either conduct echo-trainings in their respective regions to catalyze even more intensive trainings or create enterprise development programs. She revealed that for the year 2012, DA had already approved the 50-million peso budget for industry support, and another 50-million pesos to implement the cassava for staple food sufficiency program. Dr. Roa said that the funds for the implementation of the staple food sufficiency program have been downloaded to the DA-RFUs.

Dr. Roa further said that regional networks of cassava focal persons for production and processing have been organized by the DA-RFUs to ensure the full operation of the program.

A National Cassava Technical Working Group, in which PhilRootcrops is a member, was created to oversee the smooth implementation of the program from planning, advocacy, to monitoring and evaluation.