Cassava: The New Bread

By Nicole Nankya

It isn’t a secret that the prices of commodities in Uganda have hiked over the past months. For instance, a bar of soap now costs seven thousand Ugandan shillings; a kilogram of sugar at four thousand Uganda shillings; and the common breakfast accompaniment, a loaf of big bread, goes for five thousand Uganda shillings. This has left many Ugandans complaining to the government for a solution to this high cost of living.

During the Labour Day celebrations, in his speech, the President of Uganda, Yoweri kaguta Museveni, urged Ugandans who cannot afford bread to opt for cassava. “If you’re complaining that there’s no bread or wheat, please eat” Muwogo “(cassava),” Museveni said. Ugandans received this with mixed reactions, e.g., humor. That aside, let’s focus on the bigger picture. The cassava Museveni mentioned has its benefits, uses, by products, and preparation. 

Cassava is an edible starchy root tuber that is white inside with a brown covering; it is believed to have originated in North America but is now popular in tropical and African countries. Some of its other names are manioc and yucca. Research shows it is a good source of carbohydrates and provides a high amount of vitamin c and protein. 

They are different varieties of cassava grown in Uganda that derive their names from the areas where they are grown, the people who introduced the variant or its traits. These include: “Gilgil,” named after a village, “wabediyo,” because it cooks fast, “Fumba Chai,” NASE 14 and NASE 19, etc. The wholesale price of cassava is nine hundred Ugandan shillings per kilogram, and the tubers start at two thousand shillings and above.

Some of the common uses of manioc include: contributing to a balanced diet, lowering blood pressure due to potassium, promoting wound healing due to vitamin C, and providing satisfaction; according to a large percentage of Uganda Christian University students, cassava is the only food that can stay in your stomach for a longer period of time than other foods.

Cassava can be prepared in multiple ways, such as: frying, boiling, baking, mashing, roasting, and fermenting. It is recommended to be stored in cold, dark conditions and preserved by curing, freezing, and drying.

Yucca is a tuber that is 2 in 1 (the tuber as the food and the leaves as the sauce) and produces a number of byproducts that include: cassava flour, bread, laundry starch, alcoholic beverages, dried cassava chips, cassava paste, cassava starch, and cassava pasta etc. From these, a number of African delicacies are derived, such as: “fufu” from west Africa; “bammy” and “garri” from Nigeria; “katogo” from Uganda; fermented and baked semolina; “kwem” from Cameroon; “kisanvu” from Tanzania etc.

I approached some UCU students and asked what they thought of cassava and whether they were willing to try it as an alternative to bread, as the president suggested.This is what they had to say:

Nanjwan Longyi, a third student doing a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, appreciates the affordability and satisfaction cassava gives, though he prefers bread to it and opts for it when he doesn’t have money for bread.

“I like cassava because it is affordable and satisfying, though I still choose bread over it,” Nanjwan said. I can only opt for it when I don’t have money for bread.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, cassava flour provides more protein and fiber than white flour, which is what white bread is made out of.