Glenworth "Cassava Man" Cyrille: How I began my cassava bread business
Local entrepreneurship in action: Making money from cassava- The Caribbean's "diamond in the rough"
Glenworth Cyrille of Calibishie is better known as the "Cassava Man" because he has made cassava bread into a lucrative business employing at least seven people.
In an exclusive interview with the SUN, "Cassava Man" said he started making cassava bread slowly but his business has now grown beyond expectations.
"I started officially in my cassava business in 2014. But throughout my life, my mother, grandmother have been doing cassava. So it's like a hand-me-down thing for me," he said. The idea for the starting the business came to him because he was traveling regularly to the Kalinago Territory to buy cassava bread to export to a cousin in St. Croix to re-sell.
"So, I would buy the bread, send it up, she would sell it and get the money and send to me," Cyrille said.
"So, since we had cassava planted, I said why should I go up to the Reserve and get cassava? So if the order came for 20, I would do ten from the Reserve and ten of mine. So when I sent it up there were no complains. So when I realized that there were no complains about the flavor and or taste I then decided that the next order would be all my own. So I sent up the 20 from my own doing and is so it continued."
He continued, "Locally, what started the business was me wanting to do more and so I realized that there were other ways of doing the cassava bread like on a flat top grill as I do now. Hence in using this flat-top grill, I would be able to not only do my cassava bread in Calibishie but all over.
As an example of the demand for cassava products, Cyrille tried preparing cassava bread at a function in Londonderry; he prepared 100 pounds of cassava. He arrived at the event at about 12 noon and from 2pm -4pm he was kept quite busy. All the cassava bread sold out and he pocketed about $500.
"From there, I said: you know what? This is a good business and that is what I am going to further invest in. So every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would go to Calibishie and do cassava bread in front my home.
"Then I came to town doing it big time. We also have a spot in Portsmouth where we also do cassava but although COVID came and while some people were downsizing staff, I had to increase because I had to go out to deliver I had to add two other persons to my staff bringing my total of staff to seven," he said.
Cassava bread is flat; it is as hard and thin as a cracker. The flour is made from the bitter (not the sweet) type of cassava roots. To make cassava bread, the cassava is grated, the toxic juice squeezed out and then dried into flour and sifted. In Dominica, the crop holds tremendous potential and the ministry of agriculture has made various efforts over the last few decades to increase interest in growing cassava, with varying degrees of success.
Nonetheless, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says cassava is "an appropriate target for meeting goals of food security, equity, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection."
The health benefits of cassava are tremendous. Apart from supplying dietary fibre, cassava is considered to be a moderate source of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins. "Essentially, the development of a viable cassava industry is a key component of the regional strategy for addressing food insecurity, rural development and promoting economic growth," said the Agribusiness website. Cyrille can attest to that.
He said from his cassava bread business he has learnt that if you are counting stones as your business, be the best stone-counter alive "and you will make money".
"You are going to get problems and encounter difficulties along the way especially if you are coming from nothing and trying to do something," he said. "Believe in yourself, block out what people say and keep pushing to achieve your personal goals.
"Cassava was not my thing but I making money, I employ people and it is my living from now," he said.