Field measurements and statistical analysis of perforated grating surfaces for grating fresh cassava into mash in Ghana
Processing of cassava into mash requires grating of fresh cassava tubers through the abrasive action of the grating surfaces of cassava graters that grind against the cassava and transforms it into mash. Over the years, improved cassava graters have been designed and made available on the market. In spite of improvements in design, there are no standards for the manufacture of grating surfaces and this affects interchangeability of the product. Mechanised grating of fresh cassava into mash contributes to reduce postharvest losses of cassava, increase its shelf life and improve food security. However, majority of the cassava grating surfaces are poorly made with substandard measurements that affect the desired particle size of mash for gari, a staple food for millions of people in West Africa. This study assessed cassava grating surfaces focusing on the abrasive elements (tooth diameter and inter-tooth spacing). Qualitative data were gathered from local metal fabricators and female gari processors in separate focus group discussions. The purpose was to gather the narratives underlying the issues being studied so as to complement and enrich the quantitative data. 112 tooth diameters and 112 inter-tooth spacing of perforated cassava grating surfaces were randomly measured in 16 different study areas in 3 regions of Ghana, namely Western, Central and Ashanti. Results from the qualitative data showed that grating of cassava was done repeatedly (about 2-3 times) before reaching the desired particle size of mash for gari. Most customers desire grating surfaces that ensure effective contact between the cassava and the metal grating surface to reduce grating time. Results from the field measurements showed high variation in existing tooth diameters (min=1.80, max=4.50 mm) and inter-tooth spacings (min=3.50, max=12.00 mm) that resulted in non-uniform particle size of cassava mash. Using statistical analysis, tooth diameters (min=3.18, max=3.42mm) and inter-tooth spacings (min=7.12, max=7.78mm) were determined at 95% confidence interval. For practical purposes, tooth diameter of 3 mm and inter-tooth spacing of 8 mm are recommended. The availability of such data will contribute significantly to standardise perforated cassava grating surfaces to achieve product interchangeability and desired quality of grated mash for gari. This will contribute to improve the manufacture of cassava graters and sustainable gari processing business in Ghana and Africa.
Keywords: Fresh cassava, cassava grating surface, gari, food quality, Ghana