By Verenardo Meeme
Wheat farmers in 12 African Countries – Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are benefiting from a project aimed at increasing production and reducing demand gap of the crop’s products.
Wheat 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.
However, wheat production in the continent is still low and facing challenges that include poor seed varieties, climate change related impact such as prolonged droughts and pests and diseases.
The continent heavily depends on imported wheat, a burden on the scarce foreign exchange reserves. For instance, 80 per cent of the wheat hectarage in Kenya is cultivated by small scale farmers who produce only about 20 per cent of the country’s total productivity demand.
But with the help of Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project introduced in 2013 and funded by African Development Bank (AFDB), scientists from the 12 African countries are now sharing knowledge and experiences on how to cut down wheat production challenges using new technologies such as developing new wheat varieties, and progresses are being made.
According to Solomon Assefa, SARD-SC project coordinator, Africa produces only 40 per cent of what it consumes yet the continent is only at 10-20 per cent of its potential.
Scientists, since the introduction of the programme, have released 21 varieties for use as well as researched on 25 candidates along with their crop management practices to find varieties suitable for various agro-ecologies of Africa.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.