Why local content creation is so important for farmers

talk-share-learn

Interview during the MobileActive 2008 World Summit (Johannesburg, South Africa) with Mary NAKIRYA, Program coordinator at BROSDI, Busoga Open Source & Development Initiative, in Uganda.

Mary explains how the CELAC (Collecting & Exchange of Local Agricultural Content) project enables farmers to voice record their own innovative techniques and how they disseminate their experiences with radio/CD players during group sessions. Here are some of the factors that Mary considers fundamental in this experience:

  • using people’s local languages
  • people’s sense of pride for being considered expert of a certain subject
  • trust towards content prepared by colleagues
  • help by the researchers to rationalize the local knowledge and spread it
  • pride of producing audio files
  • support by CELAC to distribute the CDs with the farmers’ voices recorded and stimulate groups of conversation about the topics

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How to control Mango Leaf Hoppers

Mangoes are becoming very important fruit trees because of their various uses and nutritional value. However, they are often affected by various pests, one of them being leaf hoppers.

Mango leafhoppers Damage mangoes and prevent them from yielding enough fruits.  Both the nymphs and the adults feed on the plant sap of the flowers, leaves, tender shoots, and newly formed fruitlets, there by damaging them.

They then suck out the liquid contents leaving behind the dead and empty cells which look like small, white spots. The affected flower heads turn brown and dry up, and fruit setting is affected. Some damage may also occur through egg laying into the leaves and flower stems. Heavy feeding results to burns which is caused by the toxic effects of the insects’ saliva. These pests are also carriers of mosaic virus.

Leafhoppers produce large amounts of a sugary liquid waste called honeydew. A fungus, called sooty mold, grows on honeydew deposits that accumulate on leaves and branches, turning leaves and branches black. The appearance of a sooty mold on plants is an indication of a leafhopper infestation. Description. The eggs are laid inside the soft plant tissue on the underside of the leaves.

They are curved, whitish to greenish, and about 0.9 mm long. Eggs hatch in about 10 days. The nymphs look similar to the adults but are very small, pale yellow-green, and wingless. They undergo five nymphal stages. Their cast skins usually remain on the lower surface of the leaf. Nymphs have the ability to walk sideways, forward or backward at rapid paces there by causing rapid damage to the infested crops.

They are named leafhoppers because their adults hop fast, fly quickly, and can run in all directions when disturbed. The adults are small, elongate, wedge-shaped insects about 3-4 mm long and brown in colour.

They can be effectively controlled by garlic spray. To prepare garlic oil spray, Chop very small pieces of 100 g of garlic. Soak the chopped garlic in mineral oil for one day (24 hours). Add ½ liter and 10 ml of liquid soap. Dilute filtrate with 10 liters of water. Constantly shake the container or stir the extract while in the process of the application to prevent oil from separating. This concoction can also control cabbage worm Squash bugs and Whiteflies.

Avoid using bathing soap because it may cause a burning effect.

Traditional Vegetables

Traditional vegetable of Uganda are those plant species grown and
gen-types which are either indigenous or which were introduced long time
ago and are now cultivated. A number of them grow in all geographical
regions of Uganda, but their existence and importance vary with the
cultures staple foods of people in the various regions soils.*

They are a rich source of ascorbic acid in the diets; they
do not contain saturated fatty acid or cholesterol. In addition,
traditional vegetables supply a lot of other micro-nutrients, increase
taste and paratability and complement the nutritional values of staple
foods.

*Domesticate vegetables are grown in small plots adjacent to the homestead
which is an old age survival strategy. Production of these vegetables is
less demanding and sprouting quickly at the onset of the rains. Leafy
Amaranthus (Dodo) species, for example can be harvested in three or four
weeks after planting; they are therefore handy in emergency situations.

The importance of the traditional vegetables has rarely been appreciated,
however these vegetables make a substantial contribution to the food
security of the rural poor, and therefore their production should be
promoted.

Rural women should be educated on the nutritive values of these crops and
encourage eat as many kinds of traditional vegetables as much possible.

How to Cure Garlic

By Mary Nakirya

Garlic can be dried for long term storage. This will take 3 to 4 weeks of drying.

How to do it:

Place the entire garlic plant (bulb, roots and stalk) in a cool, dry place. You can tie the garlic in bunches and hang it, or spread your harvest out on a rack. Either way, good ventilation is a must.
Allow the garlic to dry for a few weeks (elephant garlic needs at least four weeks to cure). The outer wrapper will papery and shrunken when the garlic is dry.

Garlic drying

Garlic drying

Once dry, trim the roots close to the bulb (leave about a half-inch remaining).
Use a soft brush to remove any dirt from the bulb. The outer layer of the wrapper can be removed, if further cleaning is desired – but try not to remove much more than that.

Leave the stalks intact, if you plan to braid your garlic. Trim them to within an inch or two of the bulb if you plan to store your garlic loose.
Your garlic is now ready for storage! Keep it in a cool, dry place and it should stay fresh for months.

Save some of your  bulbs for planting next year
Only undamaged bulbs should be dried for storage. If you nick a bulb while digging it up, you’ll need to use it right away.

How to make home made Garlic Powder

Peel your garlic cloves, and slice them thin.

  •  Then, place the garlic slices in a 150 degree oven or in a dehydrator, and heat until dry.
  •  The garlic is dry when you can crush it in your hand and it crumbles easily.
  •  Allow the garlic to cool. Then, grind with a coffee grinder, spice mill, food processor or mortar and pestle until you reach your desired consistency.
  • Store your finished garlic powder in an air-tight container in a cool, dry spot or freeze.

Photo from http://finefettlefarm.wordpress.com/

The value of Traditional Vegetables

Traditional vegetable of Uganda are those plant species grown and gen-types which are either indigenous or which were introduced long time ago and are now cultivated. A number of them grow in all geographical regions of Uganda, but their existence and importance vary with the cultures staple foods of people in the various regions soils.

Traditional vegetables are rich source of ascorbic acid in the diets; they do not contain saturated fatty acid or cholesterol. In addition, traditional vegetables supply a lot of other micro-nutrients, increase taste and palatability and complement the nutritional values of staple foods.

Domesticate vegetables are grown in small plots adjacent to the homestead which is an old age survival strategy. Production of these vegetables is less demanding and sprouting quickly at the onset of the rains. Leafy Amaranthus (Dodo) species, for example can be harvested in three or four weeks after planting; they are therefore handy in emergency situations.

The importance of the traditional vegetables has rarely been appreciated, however these vegetables make a substantial contribution to the food security of the rural poor, and therefore their production should be promoted.
Rural women should be educated on the nutritive values of these crops and encourage eat as many kinds of traditional food as possible.

Mary Nakirya and Mulopi Joseph

Nutritional Needs of the Human Body

Eating patterns, influenced by many factors have a direct effect on nutrition. Taste preferences, healthy status and various social and cultural customs are some of the factors that determine what food a person eats. The food we eat should provide the body with all essential nutrients required to grow; proteins build and may maintain body cells and some may be converted into energy.

Fresh raw fruits and vegetables are generally more nutritious than cooked or processed food. Nutrients especially the B complex vitamins and vitamin C are lost during cooking and storage. Fresh fruits are good source of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A and C and of carbohydrates in the form of cellulose and natural sugar .fresh fruits are also refreshing because they contain a lot of water.

Yellow fruits such as mango pawpaw are good source of carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Other fruits such as bananas and apples contain valuable bulk fibre which helps regulate bowel movements; some fruits are also good source of mineral salt.
Vegetables provide vitamin, mineral and bulk to the diet. Their flavour color and texture appeal to the appetite. Light green vegetables provide vitamins, mineral and large amount of carbohydrates especially as cellulose, which is digestible but important as dietary fibre. Yellow and dark green vegetables are excellent source of vitamin A. vegetable leaves are generally rich in calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B and C.
To be meaningful, information, on the nutrient levels in fruits, nuts and other foodstuffs must be related to the usefulness of the nutrients in terms of the need for those nutrients by the body. Energy, protein, water, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals are all essential for one long-time well being.
Carbohydrates and fats are the body’s primary source of energy; they supply the fuel necessary for the body heat and work. Their fuel potential is expressed in kilojoules’ or kilocalories. These signify the amount of chemical energy released when food is digested. Metabolism is the term for the way the body changes the energy contained in food into various forms. When food is not available, the body draws on its stores to meet energy needs; glycogen form carbohydrate store.
The relationship between body energy balance and body weight determines whether persons are more or less a healthy weight for their age and height or they suffer from the problem of overweight. Being too fat is usually a result of more energy in-put than energy out-put. Extreme weight loss results from a deficit of energy in-put in relation to energy requirement. Energy requirement vary with age, sex, weight level of physical activities and genetic variation.
One of the commonest causes of malnutrition is a deficit in energy balance where people do not eat foods of all kinds. In many areas food shortages are seasonal, being most severe at the end of the dry season and at the beginning of the rains.
Oil-rich seeds and some fruits can play a role in addressing the energy needs of rural population on a large scale. Avocado and pumpkin are example of fruits that are important sources of energy; not getting enough energy and nutrients is not always simply a result of not enough food being available; lack of variety in diet may also result in dietary deficiencies.
A varied diet is a result likely to be a well balanced are more important, usually different foods even in small qualities improves the flavour of the staple food and thus tends to increase overall consumption. Dietary deficiencies and food insecurity are strongly related to the decreasing diversity of traditional diets. Using fruits and nuts in preparing various deities adds variety to the diet and may improve the appetite.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates supply most of the people of the world with their primary source of energy, and as a product of photosynthesis, carbohydrate are widely distributed in nature and their food products are easy to store and generally low in cost. The principal carbohydrates present in foods are sugars, starches, and cellulose. Sugars are commonly divided into simple sugars and complex sugars; simple sugars such as those found in honey and fruits are easily assimilated by the body. Complex sugars such as those found in whole grain starches require prolonged enzymatic action to break them down into simple sugars (glucose) for absorption in the gut.
Carbohydrate foods also prevent the breaking down of both fats and protein to supply energy, which would otherwise result in excessive production of toxic metabolic by-products.

Fats and Proteins:
Fats or lipids are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet and when oxidized they furnish more than twice the number of calories per gram as carbohydrates or protein. In addition, fats act as carries for the fat soluble vitamin A, D, E, and K. Fats deposits surround, protect and hold in place organs such as the kidney, heart and liver. A layer of fat also insulates the body from temperature change in the environment and prevents body heat. It aids in transmitting nerve inputs, producing metabolic precursors, forming cell membrane structure and transporting other molecules such as protein. Fats prolong the digestion process by slowing down secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, hence creating a long feeling satiety after meal.
Fats are composed of glycerol and attached fatty acids of various lengths and degree of saturation. Essential fatty acids are long chain un-saturated fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body. The major one is linoleic acid. Its faction includes improving skin integrity, lowering serum cholesterol levels and prolonging clotting time.
The type and amount of dietary fat can affect health; large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other general health problems. Too little fat can result in a deficiency of the essential fatty acid and linoleic acid. When fat provide 10% or less of total kilocalories deficiency symptom occur.

Protein
Although protein also yields energy, their main job is building and rebuilding body tissues and amon-acids are the structural components of proteins. There are 22 in total, 9 of which the body cannot synthesize in adequate amount, and these 9 are called essential amon-acids. Food proteins are considered complete when they contain the 9 EAAs in appropriate amount. Animal proteins are complete, while vegetable proteins are usually incomplete, but be mixed with complete proteins or with each other to provide all 9 EAAs for day.
In case of fasting or starving proteins are broken down for energy; thus dietary carbohydrate as mentioned earlier, have a protein sparing effect. Protein requirement are influenced by the growth needs and rate of protein synthesis, the protein quality of food, dietary carbohydrate and fat levels.
Water and dietary fibre
The average adult metabolizes 2.5 to 3 liters of water each day and the body water performs these essential functions.
• It helps give structure and form to the body through the turgidity it provides to the tissues cells.
• It creates the water based environment necessary for the vast array of the chemical reactions and reaction that comprise the body’s metabolism and sustain life.
• Improves the means for maintaining stable body temperature.
Water intake and output must be in constant balance; abnormal condition such as diarrhea produces much greater loss than normal. Extensive loss of body fluids can be especially dangerous in infants and children. Their bodies contain a greater percentage of water, and much more of the water is outside the cells and easily available for loss.
Dietary fibre
Fibre is the non digestible naturally occurring natural in food that forms its bulk and is necessary for intestinal action and waste elimination. Dietary fibre consists of
• Cellulose found in the skin of fruits and vegetables
• Non-cellulose polysaccharides (hemicelluloses, pectin, gums, mucilage, and algal substance)
• Lignin which is the only non-carbohydrate type of dietary fibre.
Among the health benefits offered by dietary fibre are that binds bile acids to form insoluble compounds; thus preventing their absorption.
Vitamins
Vitamin is other vital organic dietary substances in addition to carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They are usually necessary in only very small amount to perform a particular metabolic function or to prevent an associated deficiency disease. They cannot be manufactured in the body and must be supplied in the food.
Vitamins are grouped and distinguished according to their solubility infant or water. Those that are fat soluble are vitamin A.D, E and K. They can be stored in body fat and water soluble vitamins are C and B complex family. They cannot be stored in the body in the same way fat soluble vitamins.
Vitamin A.
Fat-soluble vitamin A occurs in nature in two forms; preformed vitamin A (common in certain animal tissues) and pro-vitamin A (carotenes).
Vitamin A aids in growing and repairing body tissues and helps maintain a smooth, soft and disease free skin. It protects the mucous membranes of the throat, nose and lungs, and reduces susceptibility to infections.
It is essential for good night vision, and prompts the secretion of gastric juice, important for digestion proteins. Yellow fruits and vegetables, as well and dark green leaves are good source of these also help provide this vitamin. Fats, protein and zinc help the body absorb and use vitamin A; and thus a diet low in these nutrients can contribute to vitamin A deficiency low levels of vitamin A can lead to partial or complete blindness, and children who lack vitamin A are more likely than healthy children to die from infections diseases. Severe deficiency results also in rough dry skin, loss of the sense of smell, and lack of hair insure and sheen.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Thiamine is a water soluble vitamin that acts as a co-enzyme in converting glucose to energy and it is heat sensitive. Thiamine maintains nervous system health, improves mental stability and improves individual learning capability. It also improves appetite and food assimilation and digestion. Thiamine is common in the germ and brain of most gains and in some fruits and vegetables.

Deficiency of thiamine results in beriberi associated with malnutrition where beriberi causes confusion and loss of memory, loss of appetite, general body weakness, tiredness, abdominal pains heart irregularities and diseased conditions.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is also a water soluble vitamin occurring naturally in foods containing other forms of vitamin B2. It is stable to heat and oxidation, and functions as part of a group of enzymes that are involved in breaking down using carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is also important for respiration and for maintaining good vision, skin, nails and hair. Many green foods, especially leaves are a good source of this vitamin and wild leafy vegetables have sometime been found to have significantly higher riboflavin content than cultivated vegetable varieties.

The deficiency is usually marked by sores and cracks in the corner of the mouth and red and sore tongue, eye fatigue, dilation of the pupils, skin disorders, sluggishness, and dizziness and inability to urinate.
Niacin (nicotinic acid)

Niacin is a member of the vitamin B complex and is water soluble and more soluble than thiamin and riboflavin, especially to heat, light, and air. It is assists in breaking down and utilizing proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It improves blood circulation by reducing cholesterol levels and is necessary for synthesizing sex hormones and forming and maintaining healthy skin. It is commonly found in peanuts, and wheat germ.

Severe deficiency results in pellagra characterized by diarrhea, rough skin, and nervous disorder, inflammation of the mucous membranes, mouth and intestinal tract, muscular weakness, indigestion, skin eruptions and general fatigue.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is water soluble vitamin; it helps maintain collagen responsible for, a protein for forming connective tissues, ligament and bones. It plays a role in healing wounds, forming red blood cells and preventing hemorrhage. It boosts the ability to fight off infection hence its use for preventing and treating colds. The major source of vitamin C is fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, tomato, cabbage and Amaranthus (Dodo).

Severe deficiency of vitamin C results in scurvy and other related disorders including shortness of breath, impaired digestion, bleeding of gums, swollen and painful joints, lowed resistance to infection, anemia and slow healing of wounds.
It is important for a rural person to understand the value of nutrition. Despite the fact that food is available, they usually have poor diet which in turn affect their level of development. Many diseases result and reduce their production level.

Simple Insecticide Recipe using Tobacco to get rid of Aphids from your Garden

By Mary Nakirya

What you should have:

1 cup liquid dish soap

1 cup antiseptic mouthwash

1 cup chewing tobacco juice (Place 3 fingers of chewing tobacco in an old nylon stocking and soak in a gallon of hot water until mixture turns dark brown.)

Put mixture into a 20 gallon sprayer and fill the rest of the container with warm water. Spray on vegetables and plants every after one  week.

Do not spary on potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, egg plants or any other members of the Solanaceae family, using tobacco spray because it affects them too.

The Benefits of Ginger

By Mulopi Joseph,Mayuge

Ginger is famous for its healing properties from ancient times; the chemical composition of ginger is very complicated as it contains more than 400 compounds. That is why the taste and flavor of ginger are so subtle and original. The useful properties of this remedy are innumerable as it has analgesic,  absorbing, antispasmodic, carminative, aphrodisiac, healing soporific, tonic, antibacterial, choler tic, and antibacterial properties.

Ginger has a strong antioxidant and depressant effect, it enhances immunity, protects well against parasites, retards the growth of bacterial, and protects against parasitic diseases. It nourishes the whole body and has a beneficial effect on the digestive symptom.

Ginger is effective for colds, flu, coughs, and congestion in the lung and is excellent remedy for many skin diseases and allergies as well as asthma. It reduces the amount of cholerestrol in the blood and it reduces the pain caused by diseases of joints, is used for rheumatism, arthritis, edema, sprains, and muscles aches.

Ginger is said to be an excellent cure for mental or physical fatigue, which can help you overcome stress and rejuvenate, and it stimulates the thyroid gland. It is effective as an anti-aging remedy, in additional it enhances the men’s potency, helps in the treatment of infertility, increases the tone of the uterus and elevates sexual arousal.

Garlic Growing

Garlic is grown from the individual cloves. Each clove will produce one plant with a single bulb. This may in turn contain up to twenty cloves. Growing Garlic is therefore self-sustaining. In Uganda it is traditional to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year, whether this is for symbolic or practical reasons is unclear. One can eat garlic fresh out of the ground but if stored it must be cured first.

How to Grow Garlic

  • When planting garlic choose a garden site that gets plenty of sun and where the soil is not too damp.
  • The cloves should be planted individually upright and about an inch (25 mm) under the surface. Plant the cloves about 4 inches (100 mm) apart. Rows should be about 18 inches (450 mm) apart.
  • Garlic can be planted in the dry and wet seasons.
  • In warmer climates, it is best to plant Garlic in early dry season but seed Garlic must be chilled first to break it out of its dormant state.
  • One should be sure to plant each clove with the pointy tip facing up and the basal/root end facing down.
  • Planting garlic more closely produces more cloves although each clove will be smaller however many growers feel that close spacing increases total overall yield in pounds of garlic per square foot of garden.
  • Garlic prefers loose loamy soil with plenty of organic matter separating bulbs into cloves right before planting leaving the papery layer around each clove.
  • Larger cloves should be used for planting and the little ones for eating or preserving.
  • Mulching garlic can be very helpful, mulching can protect against winterkill in cold climates. It helps moderate soil temperatures, keeps weeds in check, and conserves soil moisture. Mulching is not recommended in wetter climates. Mulch for garlic can be straw, hay, swamp grass, reeds, chopped leaves or plastic.
  • One should be sure to obtain cloves from certified disease-free stock, because once a field has been infected with white rot fungus it may take decades for the infection to completely clear and nematodes can breed in garlic for up to six seasons before suddenly taking an entire crop. Besides using clean stock, inspecting plants and pulling any that look diseased, and using sticky traps for onion thrips, are the best management practices.

Use of Garlic
Garlic is used in so many dishes and with over 600 sub varieties there is ample room for gourmet garlic growers to carve out a niche.
For the home grower, a year’s supply of garlic is easy to grow and one can give away braids of it for presents throughout the year if grown too much.
Hard neck Garlic produces a curly green flower stalk called a scape. Garlic scapes should be harvested from the plant as it grows so that the Garlic concentrates its energy into growing the bulb larger however, if growing bulbils for seed, allow the Garlic scape to grow because Scapes are edible and delicious.

Pests that Affect Garlic Growing

  • White rot is the most serious disease of garlic.
    White rot is a fungus that can strike all Alliums crops including onions. White rot-infected garlic plants can be identified because their leaves will turn yellow and the plants will die back partially and wilt. The roots rot as well, so infected plants may uproot easily. White rot typically develops from the middle of the season to harvest.
  • Nematode is another problematic garlic pest.
    These microscopic animals are similar to worms and live inside the garlic plant itself, eating it as it reproduces. Nematodes do not need water to survive and they can live in the surrounding soil for several years. Nematode infestation can build up for several seasons without much damage, then strike and take out an entire crop.
  • Onion thrips are the most common insect that plagues garlic.
    Thrips damage the leaves by drinking the sap of the plant, which slows the growth of the bulb thus severe thrips, may cause the garlic to wilt and die.
    Soil should be evenly moist, with a dry spell two to three weeks before harvest time. If conditions are too wet near harvest, mold may grow. 
  • Weeds are a big threat to garlic, so the plot should be kept well-weeded.
    Weeds can easily out-compete young garlic plants. Good mulch keeps weeds in check and watering of Garlic should be done evenly during early growth, but avoid watering for the last few weeks.

Harvesting of Garlic
Harvesting of garlic should be done when half to three-quarters of the bottom leaves have died which usually happens in mid to late July and August for most areas.

Harvest a test bulb or two to determine maturity. garlic should be well-wrapped but not split.

To harvest garlic, loosen the soil with a shovel or fork and pull up plants by hand with caution because garlic bruises easily. If raising bulbils to propagate new garlic, harvest and dry them separately from the bulbs.

Storing of Garlic

Garlic should be placed in a dark place with good air circulation for two to three weeks after harvest to allow it to cure. For storage braid the soft neck Garlic. Trim stems of hard neck garlic to one inch above the bulb. Storing it where it will have good air circulation, 65-70% humidity, and a temperature of 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

In warm sunny climates, garlic can be left in the field to dry, but it should be covered with leaves to prevent sunburn. Cured garlic will keep at least six months and up to a year when stored in optimal conditions.

Health Benefits of Garlic

  • It has immune-enhancing allium compounds (dialyl sultides) that appear to    increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances.
  • Diallyl sulfide a component of Garlic oil has also been shown to render carcinogens in the liver inactive. Studies have linked Garlic as well as onions, leeks, and chives to lower risk of Stomach and Colon Cancer.

Varieties of Garlic

  • There are several garlic varieties grown by Ugandan farmers. Over 600 varieties of garlic are grown worldwide. One of the most common are
  • American garlic with white, papery skin and a strong flavour.
  • The Italian Garlic
  • Mexican Garlic has a pinkish-purple skin and a slightly mild flavour

…………………source: http://fortuneofafrica.com/ug/garlic/…………………

Making Plastic Bags out of Bitter Cassava

CASSAVA

…..SOURCE…http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/Farming/-/689860/2431598/-/gdfxr1/-/index.html

There are various non-food uses for cassava.…………………..
It is applied in manufacturing of paper, textiles, medicines and adhesives, among others.
Scientists at National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge are making biodegradable plastics from cassava via a method known as bioprocessing. 
Ephraim Nuwamanya, a scientist involved in the experiment, says they use the tubers and peels of the bitter cassava variety. 
It is being carried out under Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity project (EAAP) in conjunction with University College Cork in Ireland.

Reduce cyanide
The reason for the focus on bitter cassava is that it is neither consumed by human beings nor animals. It has a sizeable amount of cyanide thus unsafe for consumption.
This particular type is grown in most parts of West Nile and western Uganda in areas bordering Rwanda.
“Cassava consumers have tried to boil and ferment bitter cassava but it is still not good for human and animal health, this is the reason why we think it is good to utilise in biodegradable plastic products,” Nuwamanya said.

“We are using a technology which is not sophisticated but we need a technique, which will enable us rapture all the cells in the bitter cassava and destroy the cyanide.”

Alternative methods
Dr Steven Tumwesigye from National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL), who wrote a paper on processing of bitter cassava for packaging material, points out that bitter cassava cultivars have been utilised as an emergency food and less as alcohol, flour and starch.
The traditional methods applied in transforming roots into dried products had been a factor in low-value products and negative environmental impact.

This means an alternative for improved human safety and minimised environment impact is needed.
This is the basis for exploring the use of bitter cassava to produce biodegradable polythene paper in a bid to steer our agriculture from low-productivity enterprises to high-productivity commercial production.

Bitter cassava which has lasted in the field between 12 to 18 months is most appropriate.
“Both unpeeled and peeled roots are processed in two stages; mechanical tissue rupture and biopolymer release and recovery in order to obtain biopolymer powder to complete the entire process,” Dr Tumwesigye says. “Findings show that using both peeled and unpeeled roots has a positive impact in reducing the cyanide in bitter varieties.”

Environmental concerns
Application of sodium chloride also has a significant influence on the ratio in both the lined film product and in the interaction with peelings.
The experiment therefore means bioprocessing has a high chance of protecting the environment because of its indirect way of minimising waste.

Cassava as the main component in making packaging material is a unique one in eastern Africa. It is particularly important for cassava communities, which are exposed to environment-based dangers caused by bitter cassava.

The process
Ephraim Nuwamanya, who is part of the research to make biodegradable plastics from bitter cassava, explains the process: We get cassava root mainly from bitter cassava variety, crush it in order to obtain powder containing starch, protein, fibre and vitamins. We mix this powder in water in the presence of sodium chloride, heat it and we get a paste out of it which is passed through a machine called thinner to make a film-like lining.It is then put in an oven to dry to make polythene, which is put in a silk gel and later dried.The product is what can be used to shape into a bag, mug, handbag and phone cover, among others.

 

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