CIAT Research and development on Cassava in Southeast Asia

Tin Maung Aye

International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Bangkok, Thailand

Cassava is both a staple and key industrial crop in Southeast Asia. The cassava sector has developed into a large and quite complex production, trading, and processing sector. The size, productivity, geographic focus, market focus, and general uses for cassava have changed enormously in the last few decades, and in some countries the change has been much more recent. The outlook for global demand in cassava is for continued strong growth and, as such, there is potential for further expansion of cassava production in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Cassava production is a very attractive option for smallholders, many of whom have relatively few other options for raising income and linking effectively to markets. For this reason, governments and development agencies should be increasing their interest in cassava as a potential pathway out of poverty for many rural poor. However production uncertainties and constraints have combined with expectations of strong global demand to sustain reasonably high prices for cassava and cassava products. In addition the recent establishment of several exotic pests and diseases in the region is broadly identified as the most important threat to its continued production. To maintain the attractiveness of cassava as a feedstock for a range of processing industries, cassava production must be highly cost-effective and more environmentally friendly so as to allay concerns about land degradation.

CIAT is one of the 15 International Agriculture Research Centers under the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) with a global mandate for cassava research. Applied research and development continues to be undertaken by CIAT cassava program and partners in a number of projects in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The main foci of the work on cassava production are on evaluation of germplasm to ensure that the most appropriate varieties are identified for each location, that information is available for the next improved varieties to be selected, and that improved management options appropriate for each location can be recommended, including soil fertility management, intercropping, crop rotations, management of planting and weeding, and more. In addition, there is work on on-farm utilization of cassava, value-adding by farmers, and utilization of processing wastes to help both industry and smallholders.

Farmer Participatory Research and Extension (FPR&E) methodologies are used in these activities, which are undertaken in collaboration with provincial and district agriculture staff so as to increase the chances for local innovation and adoption. Due attention is also focused on the best way to manage other issues, such as the social-economic, ethnicity, and political situations, which have to be considered to ensure both appropriateness and adoption.

Key words: Cassava, CIAT, R&D, Southeast Asia