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West African Yam Food Technologies: Prospects and Impediments to Change

Yam is an important commodity for more than 350 million people in West Africa because of its food, monetary and cultural values. The commodity is expensive compared with alternative starchy staples such as maize and cassava because of low technologies used in its production and postharvest handling. Yam storage techniques are rudimentary and redundant but vary from place to place depending on a range of circumstances including agro-ecology. Yam food is prepared mostly from fresh tuber by simple methods that have not changed over time and consumption is also simple because those yam foods can be eaten straight without a condiment. Compared with cassava the relative long postharvest shelf life; relative ease of food preparation from fresh tuber; and non-conventional uses of yam constitute disincentives for yam processing. Processed yam food is inferior substitute for the yam’s fresh alternative; at the same time processed yam product is more expensive than processed cassava and grain products that are its substitutes.