Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a widely-grown staple food in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder cassava production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA), noting where the analysis applies to only one of these regions. We highlight crop-environment interactions at three stages of the cassava value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., soil, water, and input use), and post-production (e.g., crop storage). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on production (poor soil quality, water scarcity, crop pests, etc.) and also environmental impacts of crop production (e.g., soil erosion, water depletion and pesticide contamination). We then highlight good practices for overcoming environmental constraints and minimizing environmental impacts in smallholder cassava production systems. Evidence on environmental issues in smallholder cassava production is relatively thin, and unevenly distributed across regions. The literature on cassava in South Asian smallholder systems is limited, reflecting a crop of secondary importance (though it is widely found elsewhere in Asia such as South East Asia), in comparison to cassava in much of SSA. The majority of the research summarized in this brief is from SSA. The last row of Table 1 summarizes good practices currently identified in the literature. However, the appropriate strategy in a given situation will vary widely based on contextual factors, such as local environmental conditions, market access, cultural preferences, production practices and the policy environment.
This review is one in a series that examines crop-environment interactions drawing on both the academic literature and the field expertise of crop scientists. Other briefs in this series include:
- Agriculture & the Environment: Overview (EPAR Technical Report #254)
- Agriculture & the Environment: Maize Systems (EPAR Research Brief #215)
- Agriculture & the Environment: Rice Systems (EPAR Research Brief #208)
- Agriculture & the Environment: Sorghum & Millet Systems (EPAR Research Brief #213)
- Agriculture & the Environment: Wheat Systems (EPAR Research Brief #212)
- Agriculture & the Environment: Yam & Sweet Potato Systems (EPAR Research Brief #225)