Article certifies two cereals as factors contributing to food security in Africa

Elsevier publishes research relevant to 2004 World Food Day.

Elsevier publishes research relevant to 2004 World Food Day

Amsterdam, 16 October 2004 - Research published in Elsevier's Trends in Food Science and Technology points to two types of indigenous cereals in Africa that could play an important role in maintaining food security on that continent.

"Biodiversity for Food Security" is the theme of World Food Day 2004, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which Elsevier observes today.

In their paper "Sorghum and millets: protein sources for Africa," Peter S. Belton, of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, and John R. N. Taylor, of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, describe the two cereals as potentially "vitally important" to maintaining food security and generating economic stability in Africa.

"The big three grains - wheat, rice and maize - have been the subject of intensive research for many years, with corresponding improvements in yield and quality. Sorghum and millets have been much less studied. More effort directed at these cereals would yield great benefits in helping to feed the hungry," said Prof. Belton.

Sorghum and millets make up about half of the total cereal production in Africa and, unlike other cereals such as maize and wheat, are well adapted to African semi-arid and sub-tropical regional growing climates. For about 1 billion people living throughout the tropics, these grains are a major source of protein.

In addition to nutritional value, sorghum has some unique characteristics that make it a reliable component in the manufacture of biodegradable films, which can be used to package fruits and nuts. The film production process uses the bran portion of the cereal, which currently is considered a waste byproduct. If employed, this method would reduce milling waste in South Africa alone by about 1500 tons per year. Thus, cultivating sorghum for the development of these films would have a positive environmental impact.

Currently, these cereals have been underutilized, in part because of an image problem within rapidly urbanizing African communities. These cereals are still simply less accepted in making the types of food products that are increasingly sought by consumers. The authors conclude that more research, a steady supply of grain and reliable production methods are necessary for these cereals to reach their full potential in increasing food security.

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About World Food Day

World Food Day was established by the member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at their twentieth general meeting in 1979. Each year on 16 October, the FAO and more than 150 countries celebrate World Food Day.

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Marike Westra
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