Africa is a continent where, at least outwardly, we like to celebrate our diversity – the rich variety that can be found in our many cultures, languages, fashion, flora and fauna. That’s why it’s perplexing to see such a large segment of the African population depending on a very small number of food crops like maize, rice, and wheat. And it’s more than just boring to the palate. It’s severely diminishing the quality of our diets and making our farming systems more vulnerable, especially during severe droughts like the one that hit Southern Africa this year.
Meanwhile, there have been a lot of talks lately about how Africa’s agriculture sector is primed to become a new economic engine for a continent that has become too dependent on commodities like oil. Next week, Heads of State and top officials from across Africa and around the world are coming to Nairobi for the African Green Revolution Forum, where there could be millions of dollars in new commitments for Africa’s smallholder farmers.
But Africa is unlikely to achieve its agriculture potential, or be prepared to deal with challenges like drought that climate change will make more frequent, unless we change our thinking about crop diversity.