Harvesting Wild Grasses
To most people, it probably seems inconceivable that in this age of intensive agriculture, wild grasses are still being gathered. The following (adapted from a recent FAO report) gives a sense of the ongoing importance of wild grains in different parts of Africa.
On their way from the wet- to the dry-season pastures, the Tuareg of Niger regularly harvest wild cereals. The grains, collectively known as ishiban, include desert panic (Panicum laetum) and shama millet (Echinochloa colona). Women do most of the gathering, and around harvest time groups of five or six women often go off for a week or so to gather wild grains (as well as fruits, gum arabic, and other wild products).
They collect the grains in different ways:
The Zaghawa of the Sudan and Chad harvest many annual grasses for food and beer. These include Egyptian grass (Dactyloctenium aegyptium), desert panic, shama millet, wild tef (Eragrostis pilosa), and wild rice (Oryza breviligulata). Kram-kram (Cenchrus biflorus) and Tribulus terrestris seeds are used only during famine. The women generally use the grains for their own