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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

A 'Lost Crop' That Might Change Africa

A 'Lost Crop' That Might Change Africa

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, September 21, 2017/Categories: video, sustainability, art and design, adventure , plants

            Lost Crops of Africa (credit: National Academy of Sciences)

Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is cereal grown in Senegal's Sahel region and scattered elsewhere across West Africa. The grain has a long history of cultivation dating back 5000 years and is called "the seed of the universe" by several African cultures. The highly nutritious grain tolerates the semi-arid environment of the entire Sahel stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Fonio has the potential to become a major food source in sub-Saharan Africa if production could be expanded.

Fonio was one of the Lost Crops of Africa recommended in a series of innovative reports from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on opportunities for sustainable development by under appreciated plant and animal resources around the world. Properly developed, NAS thought the West African cereal could expand economic opportunities for food producers and processors throughout the region and increase food security elsewhere in Africa. Sadly, fonio's benefits are still virtually unknown and remain under developed.

               Fonio Plant (credit: Fonio-bio )                                                     Grain (credit: Foodipedia)

In the 2 decades since the NAS publications, few of the innovations suggested by the science academy have been realized. However, a dynamic chef from West Africa is focusing on changing that situation. Chef Pierre Thiam has begun to 'kickstart' a wholistic approach to developing fonio that begins with local farmers, incorporates new seed processing technology, and modern food marketing expertise for an integrated food system of grain production and food consumption. From pasta to cookies, Thiam has a plan to change the existing dynamic and in the process help economies and food security throughout West Africa by bring back a 'lost crop' to the world's food stage from its current obscurity.

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