Things may be changing soon for some crops in Africa. A group called the African Orphan Crops Consortium says these plants are not getting enough attention. And it thinks they could help ease hunger and improve diet on the continent.
The group opened the African Plant Breeding Academy last year in Nairobi, Kenya. The academy is the product of cooperation among international organizations. They are hoping to use genetic information from 100 African plants and trees that researchers say have been ignored. But food scientists say these crops have many possibilities.
Howard Yana-Shapiro is a Senior Fellow at the University of California, Davis. He is also the Chief Agricultural Officer and Global Director of Plant Science and External Research for Mars candy company. Mr Shapiro says he began thinking about ways to improve diet at the local level after seeing how poor nutrition affects children in Africa and India. He says the health of babies is affectied when women have a poor diet during pregnancy. These problems, he says, can not be corrected.
Mr. Shapiro says hundreds of African plants have been ignored because they are not economically important in international trade. But food scientists say the plants still have value to people living in Africa. The African Orphan Crops Consortium plans to train plant researchers about the genetics of these crops. The group hopes that farmers will use this information to produce more food with higher nutrition levels. Mr Shapiro says anything researchers learn will be shared with the world, without cost.
For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.