Local and exotic crops in Africa

The long dry spell throughout much of February and March, caused by an unexpected El Nino that kept the main rain belt to the north of Zimbabwe, will cause serious hardship in significant areas of the country.

That’s not the only thing, of course, but an article from the Harare Herald ((Posted at allAfrica.com)) makes a plea for farmers to grow local indigenous grains such as “sorghum, mhunga and rapoko” rather than watch maize “wilt and die four years out of five”.

It is a wonderful article, making lots of good points. That food-for-work programmes should be accompanied by intensive training on growing small grains, so that those who need it most can become self-reliant in food and maybe even sell a bit for income. That modern machinery makes preparation much easier, and it isn’t expensive. That an advertising campaign could make a virtue of sadza ((Zimbabwean porridge?)) the way grandmothers made it. That there are benefits for urban consumers too. And finally, “Variety is wonderful. But we should not be rejecting indigenous grains simply because they are not “modern” or “Western”. We should be using them as well”.

I wonder whether anyone is listening?

The Ethiopian Herald, meanwhile, says green gram is becoming the crop of choice in Southern Wollo zone. A legume, green gram (Vigna radiata, maybe most familiar in the West as mung bean) improves soil fertility, ripens more rapidly and doubles or even triples incomes. One farmer is quoted as having replaced his teff crop with green gram, but if everybody does that, who is going to supply the teff flour for njera?

2 Replies to “Local and exotic crops in Africa”

  1. Alpha: The problem is that native pests and diseases like native crops better than introduced crops. Also, most people in Sub-Saharan Africa like eating maize better than sorghum and pearl millet. For myself njera from white teff any day.

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