Africa is home to over 30,000 edible plant species
Africa is home to more than 30,000 edible plant species that could provide a vital source of nutrition on the continent as climate change threatens worsening famine, a leading climate scientist wrote in The Conversation.
Reviving hardy, underused crop species could counter over-reliance on three main crops – rice, maize, and wheat – that account for 60% of calories consumed on the continent.
Many of Africa’s overlooked edible plants such as cowpea, pigeon pea, and sorghum are able to grow on land where mainstream crops can’t thrive – and are more resilient, withstanding the rising temperatures and more frequent droughts brought about by climate change.
But knowledge of how to farm these plant species is slowly fading away, while a social stigma persists that they are only eaten by poor people, wrote Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, a climate change professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Neglecting agrobiodiversity in favor of monoculture has left farmers “vulnerable to external shocks”, so government incentives are needed to bring neglected crops back into the mainstream. Exploiting Africa’s treasure trove of plant diversity would not only enable its countries to “easily feed themselves” but would “improve plant resilience in times of climate change,” he wrote.
Research shows that smallholder agriculture in Africa is a vehicle through which poverty reduction and rural development can be achieved. Recent research into crop and dietary diversity, smallholder farming and malnutrition in South Africa found that smallholder farmers who grow a wider range of crops have a more diverse diet. They also make better sales in local markets and use the profits to buy a wider range of food.
The research also found that, if supported with training, market and credit access, smallholder farmers could contribute to the dietary diversity of communities. This also translates to improved income for rural households and creates employment. Growing underutilised crops can promote pathways out of poverty
Source: The Conversation and Semafor