Feel the connection and diversity of the world through cassava

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Do you like Cassava?


If that’s the kind of your reaction, this article is for you.

Although I always say in my profile and lectures that I lived on 5 continents, I didn’t know much about cassava until I came to Mozambique. The movement I had over the past year (Denmark to Brazil, Mozambique, Japan, Indonesia then back Mozambique) I could feel the world through cassava.

In this article, I will introduce why cassava is actually important for everyday life and the world (WHY), how I felt the world through cassava (HOW), and what cassava is in the first place (WHAT). I hope this could be some learning to you.

<WHY> Why cassava?

Although Cassava might not be well-known, it is everywhere and super powerful, which allows you to feel the world a little bit in a different way. If you feel the world, I believe you connect with others and yourself.

First, let me highlight below why Cassava is worth talking about:

(1) It prefers sunlight and is resistant to dryness → Resistant to global warming

(2) Cultivation is possible even in “unsuitable land for agriculture,” (both non-fertile and fertile land)→ Land use efficiency

(3) No initial costs other than seedlings, easy cultivation and care (rooting just by inserting the stems into the ground) → Effective for redressing disparities and solving poverty problems

(4) The world’s major food crops (notable from the perspective of SDGs as the fourth carbon resource after rice, corn, and wheat), which supports the food of 1 billion people in the world → Contribution to solve food problems

(5) Multi-purpose/multi-functional crops that can be used without leaving leaves, stems, and potatoes (highly nutritious food, livestock feed, medical materials, ethanol reduction, paste material reduction, fuel reduction) → Every part can be used

(6) It teaches us the connection and diversity of the world, the expansion of perspectives, and the enjoyment of delicious food.

*(1) – (5) is extracted from “Cassava ABC to understand the basics of cassava” (JICA. 2016) and the Institute of Science (Riken. 2022), (6) is my main point I want to convey in this blog)

In other words, cassava is a superstar that protects the world, makes us feel the world, and is easy, nutritious, and delicious to eat. It seems that there was also a time when it was neglected as a “food for the poor” in the West.

According to the above-mentioned source “Cassava is involved in our daily lives… Japanese people, the least ignorant of cassava in the world, need cassava more than anyone else and cannot even live without it.”.

HOW – how I felt the world through cassava

I will introduce my encounter with such cassava. To be more precise, my encounterS (more than once).

The reason why I became so interested in cassava in the first place was because Mozambique has delicious local cuisines (you can see more detail at the bottom). So I thought I’d do a little research.

Before even coming to Mozambique, I had already met cassava several time. In the past year, I’ve moved from Denmark to various places and enjoyed food in several countries, but I noticed that all the things looked completely different, but they were all made from the same ingredient: cassava. I was surprised. At the same time, I was able to feel the world immensely per below:

  • Brazil: tapioca (a gritty crepe made with starch powder instead of the black sticky balls that are common in Japan)
  • Japan: Tapioca milk tea from
  • Indonesia: Cassava dish and cassava chips
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: Matapa (spicy, not mild)
  • Mozambique: Matapa (not spicy but very mild unlike the one from DRC, so far one of my favorites!), mandioca
  • Kenya: Ugali that I used to eat in 2020


As mentioned above, cassava made me feel the world. It goes by many different names in different places:

  • Mandioca in Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Mozambique.
  • Yuca in the Spanish-speaking world.
  • As a famous name in Asia, tapioca (Tapioca), also known as that grain. Tapioca is cassava starch (carbohydrate), and as mentioned above, in Brazil it is used for crepe-type desserts, and it is often used in Japan (has the boom already passed?). What I made.
  • Manioc in French-speaking world
  • Cassava in the English-speaking world.
  • And others (BALINGHOY, MOGO, KAMOTENG KAHOY, etc,)

Historically, it was cultivated in Central and South America 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, and spread to Africa in the 16th century due to Portugal and slavery, and then to Asian countries. Above all, it seems that cassava was brought to Africa by securing edible food for slaves through triangle  trade (America-Europe-Africa). In Japan, cassava starch is used in various things such as instant products, beer, and medical products, so it has become an indispensable part of our lives, but it is not well known (Source: See above) )

As shown below, cassava is all over the world.

(Cassava Yield by Country, FAO. 2017)

So far, I have briefly described the wonders of cassava, its connection with the world, and its identity. Although I had heard its name and probably eaten before, I didn’t really understand it, which was a great experience.

By reading this, you might wonder “Cassava is cool and let’s eat!”

But before that, be careful about eating immediately.

In fact, eating raw cassava leaves is so toxic that even cows can die. Therefore, after softening it, the poison should be removed by drying in the sun, boiling water, or fermenting.

Related to that, there was one last thing that surprised me about cassava in Mozambique. As mentioned, Matapa is one of my favorite dishes in Mozambique (could be in the world). So I asked the local person to teach me how to make Matapa.

The answer was quite confusing – “Okay, but it will take more than 30 minutes before preparing to cook”


Fortunately, I was accepted to visit local person’s home, but I still had no idea about why it takes time before preparing. The answer was quite astonishing, as they use a huge mortar and pestle similar to those used in Japanese sticky rice (mochi) pounding, and poke it strongly many times to soften it before processing it (see the photo below). Unlike Japanese mochitsuki, there is no partner to knead, so I played mostly alone.

↑ Process of making Matapa (without including actual cooking moments).

Cooked Matapa (the last photo) looks quite unique (polite way of saying strange or even non-attractive). By the way, Matapa is made over time with the following ingredients. It seems that there are various matapa in Africa, but Mozambique’s is delicious anyway.

  • Cassava leaves (after processing)
  • garlic (to be crushed with Matapa leaves)
  • water
  • Chicken soup stock
  • coconut milk
  • peanut powder
  • Shrimp, crab, etc. according to taste

If you can feel the world so much with just cassava, does that imply that the world is full of learning opportunities?

The learning of this time 

Through cassava, I learned about the connection and diversity of the world, promoting the expansion of perspectives, and the enjoyment of food. 

Thank you for reading this article. Have a great learning!



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