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Confab on Pan-African food security ongoing in Accra

BY: Isaac Yeboah

A three- day Pan-African conference on food security, nutrition and climate change has opened in Accra.
Based on the theme: “Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) for food security in Africa" the conference attracted 300 participants from Malawi, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Benin, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria and Mali.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of food and Agriculture, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, said the African continent faced climate change and land degradation challenges, the consequences of which included increased pressure on land resources and crop production.

The NUS conference was one of the activities under the capacity-building project being spearheaded by the Regional Universities Forum For Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORRUM).

It is expected to provide an opportunity for policy makers, industrialists, research scientists, the private sector and other stakeholders in agriculture to develop strategies for the use of NUS to enhance the resilience of crop varieties to make them resistant to high temperature, drought, pests and diseases.

It also offers an opportunity to develop and strengthen collaborative and productive linkages with smallholder farmers to rapidly and sustainably increase food production and improved livelihoods.

Mr Humado said indigenous fruits and vegetables could make a significant contribution in increasing resilience and reducing high rates of malnutrition while promoting healthy diets.

“The simplification of the world’s food basket and the corresponding erosion of plant genetic resources have generated concerns for food security and sustainability of livelihoods, especially for un-resourced poor farmers,” he said.

According to him, the NUS could be explained as crops that were important in local consumption and production system that formed an integral part of local culture, and present in traditional food preparations.

“The intensification of agriculture and the cultivation of major crops and commodities for Africa’s food markets have limited food production to a narrow range of the most important food crops. Worldwide, about 7,000 edible species are available, yet only a small number of these species dominate agricultural production,” he added.

Touching on the benefit of the NUS, he said the species had a comparative advantage over commodity crops because they had been selected as withstanding stressful conditions and could be cultivated using low input and biological techniques.

By Jennifer Ansah/Daily Graphic/Ghana