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Domesticating The Baobab Tree For Food Security

Domesticating local species like the baobab, an iconic African tree, would go a long way toward African food security, an agroforestry expert says.

The baobab has “not been domesticated and both its fruit and its leaves have a nutritional profile which puts avocados and oranges to shame in terms of the content of micronutrients (and) vitamins,” said Patrick Worms, a senior science policy advisor at the World Agroforestry Centre, according to a report in  EurActiv.

Worms was among scientists from European and African academic associations at a workshop in Addis Ababa last week who are calling for the use of biotechnology in African agriculture EurActiv reports.

Tapping local knowledge of African plant varieties and domesticating local species could be more cost-effective for African food security than attempting to extract more food from the West, Worms said.

Many of the world’s most food insecure regions are in Africa.

Agricultural biotechnology can contribute to sustainable agriculture and to providing nutrition to people across the continent, say scientists from the Network of African Science Academies and the European Academies Science Advisory, EurActiv reports.

Crops on which Africans depend such as corn, wheat and rice have already
been engineered over thousands of years to be very different from their wild
counterparts, “and to already be as close to perfection as it’s possible to get with existing
technology,” Worms said.

“But if we focus too much of our scientific resources behind that approach, then we leave a
much more cost-effective solution on the table, and that is to do the basic work of
domesticating these hundreds of species that could be very valuable in ensuring food security and that are currently nearly harvested in the wild,” he said, according to EurActiv.

The German ministry of research and education and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa funded the Addis Ababa workshop.

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