Forward to the past

Developing and agreeing on policies for food security is just the beginning.  During this first day of the Committee on World Food Security, numerous members of the plenary addressed the following question: “what is the next step?

Scientists around the world are developing innovative and modern techniques to improve crop yields, their nutrition content and their resilience to climate extremes. This is fantastic news, but the simple solution may have been right under our noses over the past decades.

Africa is rich in ancient crops, but many are being replaced by modern high yielding varieties. However, these so-called orphan crops are better adapted to extreme soil and climatic influences than the major crops of the world. The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), supported by the FAO, emphasizes the opportunities of these ancient crops. That means that more research to increase orphan crop yields is needed, rather than research into the climate adaptation of modern crops.

How is it possible that these crops disappeared out of sight, while some of them are so healthy and nutritious? And African grain varieties like finger millet and teff are not the only ones. The AOCC is working with 101 different orphan crops. Maybe the problem is that the term ‘orphan crops’ in itself implies there is little hope, as is the case with their Dutch translation “vergeten groenten” (forgotten vegetables). The French on the other hand, view the issue in a positive way and describe the crops as: “Les légumes retrouvés” (the rediscovered vegetables).

Using modern crop breeding techniques to improve rediscovered crops is a one way to improve local food self-sufficiency. Even more important is the way we look at possible solutions: shouldn’t we approach them in a positive way, rather than a negatively?

Blogpost by Jesse Opdam #CFS43 Social Reporter – jesse.opdam(at)

Photo: Harvest of rye in the Netherlands (taken by author)

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

18/10/2016 17:00


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