Yams to fight cancer
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Tuesday, April 24 2012
The benefits of root crops have suddenly found another place, not only as staples, but as health foods in the fight against chronic diseases, including cancer.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute (CARDI), Dr Arlington Chesney said that from the perspective of having a healthy Trinidad and Tobago and a healthy Caribbean, “we propose that people make better use of root crops” because of its health and economic benefits.
Dr. Chesney addressed yesterday’s opening of a five-day training seminar on tubers and root crops for young agricultural scientists from the region at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain.
The training programme is funded by European Union and ACP (African Caribbean Pacific) Secretariat for staples outside of sugar and rice.
Root crops and tubers such as sweet potatoes, yams, eddoes and cassava, Dr. Chesney said, are known as “cancer fighters” and other chronic non-communicable diseases.
Apart from being a staple, he said the production of root crops and tubers will help to combat poverty, create employment, ensure food security, and to conduct research on root crops in view of climate change.
Unlike other staples such as wheat and rice which are widely discussed, he noted that root crops and tubers only take up about two per cent of discussions in the business of agriculture.
In TT, he noted that over the past year, the production of cassava has increased significantly, and was now being sold alongside potatoes in fast food outlets.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Resources, Edwina Leacock, noted that TT produces only eight per cent of its staples which makes the country “highly vulnerable.” As such, she said, the ministry’s plan is to correct this to 25 per cent in the next five years.
The seminar is sponsored by CARDI and the National Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, and is being facilitated by the UK-based International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC).
Its main objective of the training, ISTRC Councillor for the Pacific region, Professor Satish Chandra said, is how to write research proposals, how to apply proper research methods, and understanding intellectual property rights in terms of branding.
The facilitators of the training were drawn from among other countries, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, and the Pacific region.
The opening also featured the signing of a memorandum of agreement between CARDI and the science-based NRI. The MOU will facilitate the exchange of staff, joint training, technical assistance, and jointly-funded projects.
In brief remarks following the signing, Dr Keith Tomlins of the NRI said that the MOU formalised an informal working relationship that had already existed. “It paves the way for long term collaboration in improving the lives of people through agricultural pursuits.”