a.k.a. yuca, manioc, mandioca, tapioca
The Crop Trust presents: cassava in color. Cassava originated in the Amazon but is today at home across the tropics. It is a lifeline for millions of small farmers, especially in Africa, who rely on its dependable harvest of large, carbohydrate-rich roots. Meanwhile in Southeast Asia cassava is booming, with new varieties released regularly and new markets opening up for the crop’s high grade starch. And the best news is yet to come: as climates change, heat-loving cassava is one of the few crops that is projected to perform even better. This will depend, however, on the different cassava regions continuing to share their diversity to overcome mounting disease and pest threats.
Despite being the sixth most farmed crop on the planet – and a likely star player in our hotter future – cassava roots are not a common sight in temperate regions. Whether you are familiar with the joys of cassava or not, join our photographers here as they follow the crop’s global networks.
To people who don’t eat cassava or who only know it as starchy tapioca, the crop can be a surprising sight. The edible roots resemble heavy bark-skinned torpedoes. The plant that produces them is a lanky shrub that looks like something out of the depths of the rainforest, which is exactly what it is. It’s also one of the most important crops on the planet.
Cassava was domesticated in South America, and in Colombia everyone knows what it looks like. People here have grown the roots, and eaten foods processed from them, for thousands of years. Colombia is also home to the world’s largest collection of cassava landrace varieties, a test-tube garden in Cali used by breeders to fight diseases and other threats – not just here in South America, but everywhere the crop has spread across the world’s tropics. The roughly half a billion people who depend on cassava as their main source of energy also depend on its diversity.
Traveling inland towards the crop’s rainforest cradle, small farmers grow cassava to eat, sell and make flour in local mills. Some are starting over after years of armed conflict; others are seemingly at war with an unpredictable climate. Through it all, cassava always endures and adapts.
This campaign is made possible by the generous support of Corteva Agriscience.