Why Sorghum
The ABS Project

In terms of tonnage, sorghum is Africa’s second most important cereal. The continent produces about 20 million tonnes of sorghum per annum, about one-third of the world crop. However, these figures do not do justice to the importance of sorghum in Africa. It is the only viable food grain for many of the world’s most food insecure people, and what’s more sorghum is uniquely adapted to Africa’s climate, being both drought resistant and able to withstand periods of water-logging.

Much of the African continent is characterized by semi-arid and sub-tropical climatic conditions. Africa is the only continent that straddles both tropics. Sorghum originated in Africa and Africans know how to plant, cook and eat it.  It is processed into a very wide variety of attractive and nutritious traditional foods, such as semi-leavened bread, couscous, dumplings and fermented and non-fermented porridges.

Sorghum is also the grain of 21st century for Africa. The potential for sorghum to be the driver of economic development in Africa is enormous. Continuing focussed fundamental and applied research is essential to unleash sorghum’s capacity to be the cornerstone of food security in Africa.
New products such as instant soft porridge and malt extracts are great successes. In the competitive environment of multinational enterprises, sorghum has been proven to be the best alternative to barley for lager beer brewing.

Africa Harvest and the ABS Project believe that the challenge of poverty, hunger and malnutrition – which are linked to the greater challenge of food security in Africa – require a multi-pronged approach.  While rice was the visible crop of the Green Revolution in Asia, Africa’s Green Revolution will require focus on a bouquet of crops.  These are likely to be the so called “orphan crops”, such as sorghum, cassava, millet, sweet potato and cowpea, that have received least R&D attention in the past, but are culturally acceptable and are part and parcel of who the African people are.

(Adapted by a paper on The importance of sorghum in Africa by Prof JRN Taylor)

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