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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains (1996)

Chapter: Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID)

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Suggested Citation:"Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID)." National Research Council. 1996. Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2305.

Board on Science and Technology for International Development

ALEXANDER SHAKOW, Director, External Affairs, The World Bank, Washington, D,C,, Chairman


PATRICIA BARNES-McCONNELL, Director, Bean/Cowpea CRSP, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan*

JORDAN J, BARUCH, President, Jordan Baruch Associates, Washington, D,C,

BARRY BLOOM, Professor, Department of Microbiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York*

JANE BORTNICK, Assistant Chief, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, D,C,*

GEORGE T, CURLIN, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

DIRK FRANKENBERG, Director, Marine Science Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

RALPH HARDY, President, Boyce-Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Inc,, Ithaca, New York*

FREDERICK HORNE, Dean, College of Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

ELLEN MESSER, Allan Shaw Feinstein World Hunger Program, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island*

CHARLES C, MUSCOPLAT, Executive Vice President, MCI Pharma, Inc,, Minneapolis, Minnesota

JAMES QUINN, Amos Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire*

VERNON RUTTAN, Regents Professor, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota*

ANTHONY SAN PIETRO, Professor of Plant Biochemistry, Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana*

ERNEST SMERDON, College of Engineering and Mines, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

GERALD P, DINEEN, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C., ex officio

JAMES WYNGAARDEN, Chairman, Office of International Affairs, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., ex officio


Members, through 1993.

Suggested Citation:"Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID)." National Research Council. 1996. Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2305.
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Scenes of starvation have drawn the world's attention to Africa's agricultural and environmental crisis. Some observers question whether this continent can ever hope to feed its growing population. Yet there is an overlooked food resource in sub-Saharan Africa that has vast potential: native food plants.

When experts were asked to nominate African food plants for inclusion in a new book, a list of 30 species grew quickly to hundreds. All in all, Africa has more than 2,000 native grains and fruits—"lost" species due for rediscovery and exploitation.

This volume focuses on native cereals, including:

  • African rice, reserved until recently as a luxury food for religious rituals.
  • Finger millet, neglected internationally although it is a staple for millions.
  • Fonio (acha), probably the oldest African cereal and sometimes called "hungry rice."
  • Pearl millet, a widely used grain that still holds great untapped potential.
  • Sorghum, with prospects for making the twenty-first century the "century of sorghum."
  • Tef, in many ways ideal but only now enjoying budding commercial production.
  • Other cultivated and wild grains.

This readable and engaging book dispels myths, often based on Western bias, about the nutritional value, flavor, and yield of these African grains.

Designed as a tool for economic development, the volume is organized with increasing levels of detail to meet the needs of both lay and professional readers. The authors present the available information on where and how each grain is grown, harvested, and processed, and they list its benefits and limitations as a food source.

The authors describe "next steps" for increasing the use of each grain, outline research needs, and address issues in building commercial production.

Sidebars cover such interesting points as the potential use of gene mapping and other "high-tech" agricultural techniques on these grains.

This fact-filled volume will be of great interest to agricultural experts, entrepreneurs, researchers, and individuals concerned about restoring food production, environmental health, and economic opportunity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Selection, Newbridge Garden Book Club


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