Orphan legumes: Key to food security in Africa

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Africa’s growing population, expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, is taking its toll on food production and consumption. This is a major source of concern for governments across the continent.

Despite rich biodiversity and excellent potential for self-sufficiency in food production, several challenges, such as land degradation, climate change, lack of access to fertilizers, poor agricultural infrastructure, banditry, and insurgency, are continuously impeding sustainable agriculture, leading to low agriculture productivity, among other issues.

To address these challenges, IITACGIAR is deploying research technologies across 30 countries to help smallholder farmers access improved varieties and clean seeds and increase productivity. With Africa’s food security dependent on a few major crops, and many of them providing only basic energy sources in diets, there is a need to address the combination of zinc, iron, and vitamin A deficiency as well as the high hidden hunger index (HHI) in sub-Saharan Africa.

A recent study explored indigenous African orphan legumes and their potential for food and nutrition, crop diversification, and climate resilience. According to the study carried out by researchers from IITA’s Genetic Resources Center (GRC) and the University of Ibadan, promoting the cultivation of African orphan—neglected or underutilized—crops due to their cultural linkage with the regional food habits of the communities in Africa can improve food and nutrition security.

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