Home-grown wheat could be the solution to a growing hunger problem in sub-Saharan Africa. The region is one of the few in which the number of undernourished people is rising, bucking a global trend. But a new analysis suggests wheat production there falls a long way short of what's possible.
A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world has dropped in the last four years. Africa is the only region where the number has actually risen ? by 20 million over the same period. The FAO says that agricultural growth there is essential.
Wheat could be the answer, say researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. At a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week they presented an analysis of 12 sub-Saharan countries. They conclude that in areas where conditions favour wheat growing, the yields are only hitting 10 to 25 per cent of their potential.
"[Extra wheat] would free locals from dependence on markets, where the price can rise by 50 per cent in a few months," says Hans-Joachim Braun, head of the centre's global wheat programme. Braun says African ministers have contacted him saying they want to grow wheat. The FAO report gives broad-brush guidance on where this might be feasible.
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