The Story of Cassava (Part 1) : Sustainable Food from Roslee Ladalo’s Self Sufficient Garden @ Kg.Ketiau, Putatan, Sabah.

Written by @joehairie & @Lan 
(Photos by
For @kulafoods Australia


Thought of the day-“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”-Audrey Hepburn

This article is about a small garden project by Roslee Ladalo and it took us 8 months to have the entire article completed. The article is divided into 3 parts. This is Part 1 of  3. 

Malaysians named cassava as ‘Ubi Kayu‘, once known as staple food, bragged by the elders that had to consumed it all day long during the Japanese Era in Malaya and Borneo. It’s the only food available at that time as Cassava grow wild, practically, everywhere. Decades later, Cassava (Ubi Kayu) has become sort of ‘Tea Time‘ product for Malaysians. To have deeper understanding about this Ubi Kayu, our team prepared one lengthy article that took us about 8 months to complete! This is a story about Cassava and the effort by Roslee Ladalo in cultivating it, producing sustainable food in his own self sufficient garden located in Kg.Ketiau, Putatan, Sabah.

About Roslee Ladalo and Kg.Ketiau, Putatan, Sabah

Roslee Ladalo with his cassava

Roslee Ladalo lives next to my house. Having him as my brother in law does gives me the advantage of getting to visit his garden and and oversee his many ambitious projects. It was early August 2016 that my mom asked Roslee to start planting cassava in an empty plot in his garden. Cassava is indeed the family’s favorite during tea time and upon realizing that, Roslee went to get few stems from the existing cassava’s that grew wildly.

He is a bank officer by profession and during weekend/holidays, Roslee spend most of his time in his garden which is equally large as his passion. He’s quite happy to please his mother in law request and projected that the family ably to reap the fruits of his work in about 7 months. @Lan was very persistent in getting that projection lengthen to about 10 months or on the first day of Ramadhan in 2017.

@Lan wanted to make Roslee proud of his work by making that cassava as one the main dessert during Ramadhan’s 2017 first day of breaking fast. Well, since the entire family kept looking at the cassava trees all the time, the temptation to consume it gets bigger everyday. Part of that cassava was harvested as early as the 4 the month, followed on the 6th Month after planting and the rest, recently (April 2017).

Kg.Ketiau is one of the many villages in the district of Putatan, Sabah, Malaysia. Being a village, many houses are with adequate space for gardens. Most villagers here do plant their own vegetables and fruit trees. Not that they are serious farmers but then having their own resources in their own backyard surely do make things easier. There’s no need to buy in bulk in the market as the many gardens do supply things that they need.

Self Sufficient Garden


Apart from cassava, Roslee is working on his new batch of Banana and Papaya trees

Self-sufficient garden is basically supplying abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. A garden at home will surely not provide for all of our needs, but at least it will reduce our dependence on others for food. What you particularly grow depends partially on personal preference, some are doing it for serious supply in the kitchen while some are just doing it casually.


The colorful flowers at Roslee’s garden

Malaysians and Asians in general, are blessed to have excellent condition in terms of weather, whole year round. Roslee Ladalo is one of the many enthusiast in having a garden for the family, planting whatever he is able to and share things around. He plants flowers as well for aesthetic reason and though things are still in the early stage, we all believe that in years to come, the garden will surely look beautiful. Most importantly, the produce will benefit the entire family.

Banana from one of many banana trees in Roslee’s garden

Seymour, John (1997)

 Self-sufficiency does not mean “going back” to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food which is fresh and organically-grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings, for the health of body and peace of mind which come with hard varied work in the open air, and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully

(The new complete book of self-sufficiency)

What is Sustainable Food?

The sustainable food producer, Roslee Ladalo

Sustainable food is about engagement in practices that keeps the environment healthy while food production is being economically and socially viable. It’s about producing good food and by saying that it means it should be produced, processed, distributed and disposed of in ways that contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods.

At the same time it protects the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species while trying to avoid damaging or wasting natural resources or contributing to climate change. Last but not least it does provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.

In regard to Roslee Ladalo effort in producing sustainable food, he’s doing it on a smaller scale with him being the ‘farmer/producer’ and the ‘manager/owner’ at the same time. He’s doing it to fill in his leisure time but aiming to produce enough supply for the family and I will not be surprised if in years to come he is ably to supply some cassava in the nearby local market.

He plants the cassava without using any single kind of pesticide. His not doing harm to the environment and economically speaking, he helps the family and neighbors to cut down on some unnecessary expenses. There’s no longer any need to buy cassava at the market. It’s there in Roslee’s  garden. He’s not wasting any natural resources, In fact, he is providing that valuable ‘lessons’ for people around him, opportunities to learn something in his garden.

For that, I believe he is producing sustainable food. 

About Cassava


The scientific name of cassava is Manihot Esculenta. Besides rice and maize, cassava is said to be the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics and indeed a major staple food in the developing world. It means it provides a basic diet for over 500 million people. Cassava is also said to be one of the most drought-tolerant crops, that is capable of growing on marginal soils.

It is important to mention that Cassava is monoecious which means male and female flowers are located on the same plant with ome varieties flower frequently and regularly. Flower production is indeed important for the breeding process and environmental factors, such as photoperiod and temperature, influence flowering.

Female flowers open 1-2 weeks before male flowers with Insects does its jobs by doing cross-pollination. Self-pollination occurs when female and male flowers, located on different branches of the same plant, open at the same time. Cassava is propagated by stem cuttings.

Cassava stems

Cassava stems are cylindrical, with a diameter ranging from 2 to 6 cm and ably to grow up to 4 m. Stems color’s vary from white gray to brown or dark brown and are usually woody with a large pith. Each of the stem produces an average of one node per day during early growth stages, and one node per week later.

Each nodal unit consists of a node which subtends a leaf, and an internode wut its length vary according to plant age, and environmental factors for example soil moisture, temperature and light. The shoot develops from buds located at the nodes of the cutting. The number of shoots which develop from a stem cutting depends on several factors such as length of cutting, planting orientation, stem diameter, mother plant effect and apical dominance.

Planting the Cassava

That’s me helping Roslee to clear the soil and plant at the same time!

To get good cassava planting materials, mother plants must be cultivated on fertile soils. Cassava planting materials derived from this planting condition of the mother plants will have better food for the new plants as well as good germination that grow better while producing higher root yields. That being said, it may also have better resistance to pests and diseases.

Roslee cutting the stems into planting stakes

A sharp knife or anything related to it should be used for cutting the stems into planting stakes. It is important to avoid bruising of tissues, tearing the bark, splintering the wood and damaging the planting material. At times, planting materials with either transverse cuts or bevelled cuts may give good yields. Stakes that have been transversely cut are able to root uniformly around the whole stem perimeter, resulting in better root distribution.

The planted planting stakes

The most quality planting material is usually taken from the middle two thirds of the stems of plants that are 10-12 months old. The length of the planting stakes should be about 20-25 cm long. The distance between cassava plants will differ depending on the type of inter-crops, but generally ranges from 100 to 400 cm. The plant spacing depends mainly on: variety, climatic conditions, soil fertility of specific locations and cultural practices.

The Wait and The Harvest

After some time of pollination and subsequent fertilization, the ovary develops into a fruit. The fruit matures in 70-90 days. Seeds can be light gray, brownish or dark gray, with darker blotches. Depending on the variety, harvesting of cassava for food may begin from the seventh month after planting for early varieties, or after the tenth month for late varieties. Before this, the roots are too small.

At the harvesting time, that is, between the sixth and the twelfth month, each fully grown cassava root may weigh 1 or 2 kilograms, depending on the variety. In small family plantations, without cutting the stems, roots can be harvested at any time depending on the need of the farmers.

Hand harvesting of cassava can be simple if cassava stakes are planted horizontally in the soil at a depth of 5–10 cm. In case they are planted vertically or slanted, a garden fork can be used to loosen the soil around the tubers before they are pulled by hand.

In regard to the cassava planting by Roslee Ladalo, we had been following the progress of those particular cassava and recorded the growth, in images. Here are the said images, from the 1st month (September 2016) up to early April 2017. Take note of the height of the trees as well as the cassava’s sizes that were unearthed for 3 times in that duration of 8 months.

1st Month-September 2016


2nd Month-October 2016


4th Month- December 2016



6th Month-February 2017



8th Month-April 2017





In part 2, we will reveal the health benefits of both cassava and its leaves as well as the method to cook and consume it, Malaysian style.

Reference(s)/Reading List

Adam MR dan Moss MO (2000). Food Microbiology. 2nd ed. The Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom.

Adamafio, Sakyiamah M, and Josephyne T (2010). Fermentation in cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) pulp juice improves nutritive value of cassava peel. Academic Journals 4(3): 51-56

Atmojo, S.W. (2006). Peranan Bahan Organik terhadap Kesuburan Tanah dan Upaya Pengelolaannya. Sebelas Maret University Press. Surakarta

Commission on Sustainable Development (2001). Indicators of Sustainable Development: Guidelines and Methodologies. Second Edition. UN, NY, September 2001

Daly, H.E. (1990). Toward Some Operational Principles of Sustainable Development. Ecological Economics 2: 1-6

Foresight UK (2011). The future of food and farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability. Government Office for Science, Foresight, Final Project Report.

Kanagasabai, S (2010). Textbook on Environmental Studies. PHI Learning Private Limited. New Dehli.

Love, C., Carroll, P., and Prior, J. 2010. Building Social Capital to Achieve Sustainable Farm Practices, Section 3, In Jennings, J., Woodside, D., and Packham, R. (eds) Enabling the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Agricultural Production: The Role of Extension, Australia Pacific Extension Network, Brisbane

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (2015). Cassava Handbook. Department of International Cooperation. Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Seymour, John (2002). The New Complete book of Self-Sufficiency. Dorling Kindersely: London.

Soepardi, G. (1983). Sifat dan Ciri Tanah. IPB, Bogor

Supanjani (2012). Teknik Budidaya Singkong oleh Petani. Agrin Vol. 16, No. 2.

Wargiono, J (1979). Ubi kayu dan Cara Bercocok Tanam. Buletin Teknik No.4. 36p. Bogor: Lembaga Pusat Penelitian Pertanian Bogor.