NSP - Cassava-diseases

CASSAVA DISEASES in AFRICA - A major threat to food security

  • Credit: FAO/G. Napolitano
  • Credit: FAO/C. Ferrand
  • Credit: FAO/C. Ferrand

Vital for food security and income generation for poor and vulnerable groups

Cassava is an important staple crop in central, eastern and southern Africa. It is rich in carbohydrates, tolerant to drought and acidic soils, and can generate adequate yields even on marginal lands. The crop is the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and maize. In Africa, more than 70 million people depend on cassava. More on cassava

Growing regional threat

Both as a staple crop and as a potential sector to be developed, cassava production is being threatened by insect pests and diseases. The most serious are East African cassava mosaic virus-Uganda variant (EACMV-Ug) which has been spreading since 1997, and cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) which has affected new areas in eastern and central Africa from 2004. Being a staple crop, insect pests and diseases have an immediate impact on food supply. More on cassava-related diseases

Building a resilient production system

In response to the disease threat, FAO and others have been multiplying planting material (cassava stems) of mainly disease-tolerant varieties. A recent programme review suggested that a more holistic approach involving farmer education, involvement in selection of new varieties, better communication and national coordination would improve the effectiveness of this response. Based on this review, in 2009, FAO and partners developed a regional strategic programme framework, entitled "Cassava diseases in central, eastern and southern Africa" (CaCESA). CaCESA aims to increase the crops productivity and production through the management of diseases that affect it. In so doing, CaCESA will ensure food and income security for cassava-dependent vulnerable populations in 15 countries in central, eastern and southern Africa affected by cassava insect pests and diseases. More on CaCESA

Opportunity for development

Cassava sub-sector development (industrial or semi-industrial uses of cassava) is being actively pursued world wide. The crop is a source of starch and livestock feed, and can be a feedstock in bio-ethanol production, although East Africa has lower yields and less wide-ranging use of the crop than other regions. At present, average yields of about 10 tonnes/ha in Africa are barely 20% of those obtained under optimum conditions. More on cassava sector development


To achieve the objective of CaCESA on a significant scale will cost in the order of $50-100m over five years, bring benefits to about 5,000,000 farmers in 15 countries in central, eastern and southern Africa, and improve the underlying sustainability of the cassava production system in the long term.