For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

FAO, FARA launch compendium of 100 forgotten foods for Africa

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The Food and Agricultural Organisation in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), a continental research forum has launched a new compendium of forgotten foods for Africa.

The compendium includes traditional local mainstays such as Bambara groundnut and pigeon peas, superfoods such as fonio or baobab fruit, and naturalized vitamin-rich crops such as amaranth or taro amongst several others

In the report, published on the organisation’s website, it stated that the new Compendium of Forgotten Foods in Africa aims to move the needle by identifying so-called orphan foods that very often are “locally adapted and less fastidious than exotic cultivars” such as maize, rice or wheat.

According to the report, the compendium presents 100 examples of neglected local foods that have the potential to sustainably provide much-needed dietary nutrients to various communities across Africa.

The compendium is a scoping study and a first step in what will be “an exhaustive identification and characterization of forgotten foods in Africa,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa and FARA Executive Director Aggrey Agumya.

Both authors made it clear that “while the current list may be expanded over time, the key litmus test is to generate increased attention and funding by researchers and agricultural development practitioners able to shepherd pioneering investments into sustainable agrifood transformation.”

The 100 examples collated in the Compendium, with imagery, agroecological suitability, agronomic requirements, and nutritional qualities, were selected after an initial canvassing of experts around Africa, whose specialities range from value-chain development to genetic improvement.

“Sometimes the foods are relatively forgotten due to progressive loss of cultural image in the face of more exotic imported foods, and sometimes they are not forgotten or neglected at all but – like cassava or bush mango – remain traditional crops used in local markets and not used in longer-distance trade”

“A common attribute, however, is that they have received little or no policy and research attention until now” the writers stated

Other ideas from various experts are to call these crops “opportunity crops” given their potential to transform African agrifood systems to be MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind, in line with the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031.

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