Enhancing capacity to deliver impact

Y. Wachira (Bioversity International)

Helping African scientists rediscover their continent’s neglected superfoods

East Africa
West Africa

In the health food shops of the developed world, quinoa, baobab fruit powder and other superfoods are in vogue because of their nutritional value. For African smallholder farmers, such crops could also be described as a superfood because of their tolerance to drought and other climatic hazards.

In the past, crops such as groundnut and amaranth were an important reserve crop in times of drought, but an agricultural model focused on maximizing rice and maize production has left them neglected, underused and at risk of extinction. This bias towards major crops has been evident in research funding, which means there is little information available on these potential superfoods and limited human and institutional capacity to redress this.

Farmers benefit from research into the underexploited potential of growing neglected and underutilised species, such as Baobab Fruit

Farmers benefit from research into the underexploited potential of growing neglected and underutilised species, such as Baobab Fruit. (L) L. Enking (R) M.K. Campbell

Under the CCAFS program, Bioversity International have been working with research institutes and universities in west, east and southern Africa to close these knowledge gaps and tap into the nutritional and climate-friendly potential of these superfoods. A total of 230 African scientists have been trained in 10 highly participative training courses, while the wider research community has been brought together through the creation of a web platform.

The project funded the 3rd International Conference on Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) in September 2013 in Ghana. As well as giving researchers opportunities to learn from one another, it was an important advocacy moment with the agreement of the Accra Statement for a Food Secure Africa, which emphasized the need for urgent action.

“Africa is endowed with immensely rich agricultural biodiversity. Hundreds of species of crops, trees and animals are raised or harvested from a diverse range of agricultural and natural ecosystems… [but] many of these species [are] overlooked in agricultural policies and programmes… the conservation and use of neglected and underutilized species (NUS), together with traditional knowledge relating to them, are fundamentally important to tackling poverty, malnutrition and climate change, and to seizing new opportunities for agricultural growth.” Accra Statement for a Food Secure Africa