The challenge of food availability has become synonymous with that of food security. Previously, most African governments focused on general aspects of increasing productivity to feed their growing populations; now having enough food to eat is a major concern.
The 2008 world food crisis brought greater attention to agriculture, especially in Africa. The sudden rise in prices caused food riots across many countries in Africa and around the world. State controlled and private companies from foreign nations are acquiring agricultural land in Africa to export agricultural produce to their citizens. Governments rushed to implement various policies such as export restrictions and bans, reduced importation tariffs and subsidized importation schemes.
In Africa, the crisis focused on cereals as they are they are the most consumed foodstuff. Sorghum, rice, maize, millet and wheat account for nearly 94% of African cereal production. They are a common part of daily diets and often consumed as breads, porridges, malt beverages, flour and other foodstuffs.
|However, agricultural research has been heavily skewed in favour of the commercial cereals such as maize, rice and wheat and less on the staple cereals such as sorghum and millet.|
Climate change has a big impact on Africa’s food availability and security. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that as temperatures rise, Africa’s future climate is generally likely to be more drought-prone while more flood-prone in some areas.
Africa’s food availability and food security is tied up with its staple cereals - such as sorghum and millet – that are better adapted to drought and water logging. However, these crops need improvements in nutritional quality, environmental tolerance, yields and productive traits.
In addition, Africa will need to look at policies related to land redistribution and provision of farm inputs, strategic grain reserves and storage facilities as well as industrial processing technologies that can improve the commercial viability of sorghum and millet.
Africa must avoid the over-concentration on one or two cereal crops. Instead the continent must broaden the range, to include orphan crops such as sorghum, millet and cow pea. Increasing the quality, productivity and commercial potential of the orphan staple crops is both prudent and effective in securing the future food availability and food security for African nations.
|Africa Critical Cereals|