Africa can achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production


Photo credit: SciDevNet – Copyright: Panos


Fighting low wheat production in Africa

If scientists, farmers and policy makers could consistently work together, Africa will achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production in the very near future.

That was one of the central themes at a meeting convened in Nigeria recently to discuss wheat matters, including presentations of various studies.

From the participants at the 4-day international wheat conference of the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) Project held in Abuja, Nigeria, 27 February to 2 March, it was quite clear to me that wheat is becoming a major staple on the continent.

It is an important source for vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, vitamin B, folic acid, antioxidants and phytochemicals. These nutrients can help prevent many of the chronic diseases plaguing Africa, where the disease burden is great and overstretching the health infrastructures.

Growing the crop, I gathered from the meeting, has faced various challenges but in recent years, scientists working on the project including those at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture have been able to breed wheat varieties that are adaptable various African agroecological conditions, early maturing, pest and disease resistant as well as heat tolerant and thus ensuring farmers produced about five tons per hectare against 1.2 tons previously.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.