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Calls are Growing to Invest More in the Continent’s Traditional Grains

The benefits of fonio are so marked that academics and policymakers are now calling for the grain – alongside other indigenous foods, such as Ethiopia’s teff, as well as cassava and various millets and legumes – to be embraced more widely across Africa to improve food security. The move comes as the UN warns that countries in the Horn of Africa are facing severe hunger, while many others have been hugely affected by rising wheat prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Makhtar Diop, managing director of the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, said last month that these crops were being under-utilised and needed greater investment, research and marketing. These ancient foods, with their greater nutritional benefits and resilience to drought, could break the continent’s reliance on imported wheat, rice and maize, which often do not grow easily in Africa but now dominate people’s diets.