News / Africa

    Boosting Africa's Wheat Production

    Experts say sub-Saharan Africa can be a major wheat producer. Credit: CIMMYTExperts say sub-Saharan Africa can be a major wheat producer. Credit: CIMMYT
    x
    Experts say sub-Saharan Africa can be a major wheat producer. Credit: CIMMYT
    Experts say sub-Saharan Africa can be a major wheat producer. Credit: CIMMYT
    Joe DeCapua
    Agricultural experts are meeting in Addis Ababa (10/8-12) to discuss ways of making sub-Saharan Africa a major wheat producer. The region traditionally has played a small role in wheat production, but that could change in the coming years.


    Maize is currently king among cereal crops in sub-African Africa, while wheat is the most important crop in North Africa. Wheat production fell sharply in the sub-Saharan region during the 1980s as food aid rose and international prices fell.

    Hans Joachim Braun is one of the experts attending the Wheat for Food Security Conference in Ethiopia.

    “Wheat was always a commodity crop in North Africa. North Africa was the grain basket for the Roman Empire. And wheat production and domestication started in North Africa, Turkey, Iraq. So for traditional reasons wheat was always there,” he said.

    Braun is director of the Global Wheat Program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT. He said that maize became very popular in sub-Saharan Africa.

    “Maize was only introduced a few hundred years ago into Africa. But maize, of course, does very well in Africa and so it developed into the most important stable there.”

    Some attempts were made in the 1960s to grow wheat in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, the dumping of cheap wheat on the market by the U.S. and Europe made it economically unsustainable. What’s more, Africa’s wheat farms were often far from populations centers. A lack of transportation infrastructure added to the obstacles. Also, the tropical lowlands were not suitable for wheat production.

    So why make a major effort now to create a major wheat industry?

    Braun said, “In the last four years we have seen three major price hikes where the wheat price and other staple prices exploded. And that puts a big, big bill on countries, which are depending on wheat imports, and Africa is the biggest wheat importer.”

    He added that the demand for wheat in sub-Saharan Africa is growing faster than any other commodity, adding there are two main reasons for that.

    “With higher income people would like to have more diversified food. But that is possibly not the most important one. The most important one is that there is a tremendous migration of in particular male labor to the cities. And wheat products are convenient food because you can easily buy it. It’s easy to process and you also can store it for a few days, which is different from some of the maize and rice products,” he said.

    There are three potential problems for growing more wheat on the continent: climate change, disease and pests. However, Braun says climate change, with its increased carbon dioxide, should not have a major effect on wheat. In fact, he said, it could help wheat grow in rain-fed regions. As for disease and pests, experts recommend growing more resistant varieties to deal with such things as stem rust.

    “There is a much better strategy to grow resistant varieties in East Africa than to argue that an expansion of wheat would be problematic. Because these farmers grow wheat anyway and at present they grow mostly susceptible cultivars. So if we could establish breeding programs, which provide the farmers with wheat varieties, which have durable rust resistance, that would be a much better strategy for farmers in Africa -- but possibly maybe even more important considering the global status of wheat for the world,” he said.

    Rail and road transportation would have to be improved so wheat could be moved in volume to large city markets.

    Braun said Nigeria is one country eager to grow wheat.

    “The minister of agriculture has declared that Nigeria would like to be self-sufficient for wheat production within the next six to eight years. And Nigeria is the biggest wheat importer in sub-Saharan Africa. And historically, Nigeria was producing wheat in the 60s and 70s, but then this industry was basically killed when the very cheap and subsidized wheat was made available and exported to Africa,” he said.

    The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center estimates sub-Saharan Africa will spend $18 billion this year to import 40 million tons of wheat. The center’s new report outlines the viability of wheat production in 12 countries: Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique, as well as Rwanda, Tanzania, the DRC, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora