Summary: Cassava represents the difference between hunger and sustenance for millions of the world's poor. It is the world's highest source of calories, and the fourth highest in the tropics (behind rice, sugar cane, and maize), it is the root of life across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In Africa alone, cassava is the staple food of over 200 million people. Nevertheless, cassava is an orphan commodity that would not normally enter the research agendas of advanced public or private sector institutions. The story of cassava research, which is the central theme of this essay, continues to unfold only because agricultural research has been deliberately used in the front line of the world's fight against poverty. That deployment was achieved by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and its network of international centers of excellence. From its founding in 1971, the CGIAR has functioned as a guarantor to the world's poor, ensuring that international scientific capacity seeks solutions to some of their most pressing problems. As a result, food requirements have been secured where scarcity and famine were common, and many societies have experienced the broad range of benefits generated by agricultural development. Food productivity has to be scientifically increased to meet the needs of a growing human family while, simultaneously, the natural resources on which food productivity depends are protected and preserved.
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