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close this bookQuiet Revolutionaries - A Look at the Campaign by Agricultural Scientists to Fight Hunger (World Bank)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe people behind this essay
View the documentForeword
View the documentA costly mistake
View the documentA tiny but effective wasp
View the documentMoving to Benin
View the documentMite against Mite
View the documentGood works and deals
View the documentOrganizing the CGIAR
View the documentThe second-generation centers
View the documentThe question of quarantine
View the documentManaging a gene bank
View the documentRights to intellectual property
View the documentA new kind of bread
View the documentA taste of honey
View the documentStarch and alcohol

A taste of honey

One could always spread some cassava honey on cassava bread. Dr. Hahn is convinced that cassava honey should be taken seriously. "With cassava nothing is wasted. What other crop is like that?" he said, leaping out of his car once more. We had waited until after 11 o'clock in the morning to return to the fields, for that was when the bees came between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. They waited for the heat of the day.

He pointed to some flowers on a cassava plant. "These aren't flowering yet. This is the female and this is the male. The female opens about ten days before the male."

The female was noticeably larger. He took out a pair of tweezers and gently pulled the petals apart "I'm opening this female flower artificially. It's not ready to open now. You see there's a lot of nectar inside. The whitish stuff. The bees will became very. A few minutes. They will come."

"What land of cassava is this?"
"Tetraploid. Seventy-two chromosomes. The bees will come. Any minute. African bees are very aggressive. Small but aggressive. So called killer bees."

We moved a few yards away down another row of plants mat stood about seven feet tall and opened some more flowers. We didn't have long to wait.

"I can hear something," he said, looking skyward. The bees, with black and yellow stripes, swooped down and buzzed around the flowers he'd opened. He was soon pushing them away with his hands, while at the same tune trying to open more of the flowers. One or two bees started to get angry. He took no notice.
"Tetraploid Bowers are larger than diploids. So they contain more nectar than diploids. They convert this nectar into honey."
I was finding it difficult to concentrate on the lecture.
"You are in the middle of them", he called from a safer distance.
"I know. Have you ever been stung?" I asked, moving away quickly.
"Yes, yes. A zoologist was once killed by bees In this area. Look at them. Dozens of them. Collecting nectar."

He pointed to a flower that was now just a moving yellow and black mass. "Twelve bees on one flower. It must have a lot of nectar. They're also collecting pollen. They're enjoying it. Nature's fascinating"

One of the scientists at the center, Marieke Mutsaers, had kept some hives and produced some honey. "In the rainy season there's no nectar source except cassava," Hahn said. "Absolutely none."

"What does it taste like," I asked, after we had retreated to the sanctuary and cool of his of fice.
"It's a little bit bitter. They said it may be cyanide. But Dr. Bokanga tested it and he said: 'No cyanide.' If you leave it for a while, the bitterness disappears. Africans just need to learn beekeeping. They already do have their traditional system— they have container jars and so on. This is a hope for Africa."

Giving It to Animals

So there are ways to eat cassava safely and with pleasure. And it can also be given to animals. In the last two decades, it has become an important animal feed, freeing other crops such as maize for human consumption, as has been suggested for the parched areas of eastern and southern Africa. Thailand, quick to spot a commercial opportunity, has gone into the shipping of cassava pellets to the European Community (EC) in a big way.

The EC, James Cock explained, put heavy tariffs on imported compound feeds to protect its cereal growers. Cassava, however, wasn't seen as an important feed stuff and was given a special tariff.. With a low tariff, cassava became an economically attractive alternative to cereals for European food compounders.

The Thai, especially in the less prosperous rural areas, load the cassava into chipping machines and then spread them out to dry. Because chips are bully, the Thai started pelleting the chips to increase their density, and then packing them up and sending them off to feed European animals.

"There are thousands and thousands of chipping and drying plants in Thailand, out in the rural areas," Wheatley said. "You can have an industry with a large volume of production based on small-scale units. Those units ensure you get the benefits to the poor. You can develop new markets and you can do this at a small scale appropriate to these rural areas. You can get the farmers themselves, or the landless laborers and people in these communities involved in the processing By linking farmers to growth markets, you can increase the demand for the crop, plant more cassava, increase their income, but also stabilize the prices to some extent"