Cassava: the Rambo of root crops

By David Poulson

Here’s a presentation of an innovative research project that also demonstrates some strong public engagement tools. Among them:

  • Length – It comes in under three minutes yet contains a remarkable amount of information. But just because it ends there doesn’t mean that communication ends with the presentation. This is the kind of thing that could well promote continued questions and conversation.
  • Popular culture reference – You have to capture your audience’s attention before you can inform them. The speaker does this with the references to Rambo in both the title and in his first sentence after greeting us: “Let’s think for a moment about Rambo.”
  • AlliterationRambo root has a nice ring.
  • Humor – “And yes, you’re in the right room.” That sentence prompts a chuckle.
  • The turn – This is where the speaker pivots from the funny, to the substantive – aided with some simple visuals. We quickly learn the attributes of cassava – it adjusts to climate change, there is potential to increase yields, it requires minimal inputs.
  • The metaphor – What if parents had a tool to help children realize their full potential? That’s what we’re going to do with cassava.

What we have here is a communications sandwich. The substance is sandwiched by the Rambo reference and the metaphor.

It ends with a nice summary that explains why this is important: This research creates an innovative model for increasing cassava yields in southeast Asia and hopefully throughout the world.

Check out other examples of this kind of work here.

David Poulson is the director of Michigan State University’s translational scholars program and the senior associate director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

2 thoughts on “Cassava: the Rambo of root crops”

  1. This is very interesting presentation that captures the attention of the audience. Cassava is one of the most grown root crops in Tanzania. I’ll share the message with other people in my homeland.


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