Fortified Amaranth and Cassava Technology Group Liberia, photo courtesy of Cheryl Williams.

Cassava is Key

In the fight against world hunger, Cheryl Williams is dollars away from saving a nation with a root. Williams is a doctoral student at Texas Tech University studying Agricultural Education with certificates in Global Food Security. Cheryl’s dissertation is on “post-harvest loss reduction of cassava, using a gendered training approach. As a native of Liberia, this subject hit close to home for Cheryl. She is conducting research on how to decrease these problems not only in Liberia but throughout Africa. Nearly 42 percent of children below the age of five are stunted in Liberia.

Cheryl is digging deeper into the problem through conducting research.

Cheryl collaborated with five Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security scholars, including Alecia Evans, of Jamaica, Anna Walker from the United States, Gabriel Abdulaii from Ghana, Mara Sanders and Jay Walker. A short video of the project was submitted to National Geographic and placed third for the People’s Choice Award.

Cheryl’s dissertation is focused on reducing the post-harvest loss of cassava, a tuberous crop and a second major staple food in Liberia. The tuber is prepared in various ways and is the best crop to reduce hunger and provide energy. The leaves are also prepared with oil and eaten with rice. It takes anywhere from six months to three years of warm tropical weather to successfully grow and harvest cassava.

“Cassava is drought resistant and requires little input to grow,” Cheryl said.

Cassava has replaced beans and legumes in Liberia and Africa because it is a very nutritional food.

Cheryl said, “There is limited education on post-harvest loss reduction techniques thereby loss of the produce after harvest.”

Hitting Home

Cheryl has an emotional attachment to this problem because it is happening in her home country. She began feeling eager to help when she was working for the National Food Security and Nutrition Program and realized how big of a problem stunting was becoming. Cheryl monitored data in Liberia and decided she had an idea on how to help diminish this problem.

“What is the problem and why is this happening?”

“What is the problem and why is this (stunting) happening?” Cheryl said.

Cheryl conducted her research on cassava to identify how it can positively affect the youth in Liberia, as well as other surrounding countries and lactating mothers.

Funding

Cheryl is seeking funding for the training and education of farmers about the processing of cassava with indigenous vegetables to reduce malnutrition and stunting in Liberia. This would also help to create a demonstration site where people would be able to see exactly what they are doing with the cassava crop and how it is being produced, as well as formulated into the formula she has made.

The project will not only address stunting but also the capacity building of farmers but also ensure economic development of farmers’ groups in Liberia.

“Not only would it be beneficial from a health standpoint, but it could also be beneficial from an economic standpoint for farmers,” Cheryl said.

This project could make this cassava-based formula a competing formula all over the world. More people are transitioning to the organic, vegetarian, and vegan lifestyles especially over here in America. If this formula brought enough attention to it, this could help stunting all over the world, not only in Africa and Liberia especially.

Training

The Fortified Amaranth and Cassava Technology group Liberia through Cheryl is seeking a place for the drying and mixing processes of cassava.

“We will use this as a training center and office,” Cheryl said.

The crop takes around six months to successfully dry. After the crop has dried, they are able to start with the mixing process to make cassava a part of the formula. They dry cassava to make the crop more economical, easier to store, and therefore, lengthen the storage of the crop.

By funding this project, this could provide career opportunities and economic growth in Liberia and Africa. If this project gets the attention and expected results, this could eventually become a global product and industry. They could use F.A.C.T.’s formula for exporting or trade with other countries. This would help in providing equality and recognition in Liberia and Africa.

F.A.C.T

The cassava nutrition program titled F.A.C.T group combined a list of ingredients that would help to make up a healthy formula. The Liberia F.A.C.T group used moringa powder, grain, cassava, and added a banana flavor to help make the formula more palatable. Stunting is the chronic undernutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development in an infant’s life. The condition in children can be assessed by physical growth performance through anthropometry.  This faltering in growth happens mainly from 90 days from birth through 18 – 24 months. The condition is irreversible. Stunted children run the risk of becoming sick because of their immunodeficiency status and UNICEF stated that sick children are more likely to become stunted due to poor nutrition absorption.

When the group obtains the funding needed, the project would not only reduce stunting and malnutrition in Liberia and Africa, but this would also help children in rural Africa. Poverty and poor living conditions are related to stunting.

A lot of stunting is caused due to mothers having to work to provide an income for their families. This causes infants to not be fed the proper amount of nutrients, which leads to malnutrition.

If the formula receives funding, Chery said, “it would be ideal for lactating mothers to intake the formula to properly give their nursing infant the nutrients needed to develop their growth. This formula would also be able to give the pregnant mothers the proper nutrients for fetal development and growth.”

Cheryl has done extensive research on this project. She is very passionate about helping her country and surrounding countries defeat mal-nutrition and stunting. If her proposed research gets approved, it will help the good and welfare of children as well as lactating or pregnant mothers. After Cheryl finishes her remaining research and comes up with positive results, it will forever change the mal-nutrition in Liberia and Africa, possibly change the whole world.
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