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