kg per person). It has been estimated that Africa now needs 14 million tons more grain each year than it is producing. With the population growing at 3 percent per year and agricultural production increasing by only 2 percent, that shortfall will reach 50 million tons by 2000.3

Obviously a crisis is impending in Africa's food supply. Improving cereals for Africa should be a great international agricultural endeavor. Maize, rice, and wheat have much to offer and deserve greatly increased support. A crucial objective, though, must be to extend cereal production into areas where environmental stresses and plant diseases currently limit their growth. For these now-marginal lands, Africa's own grains offer outstanding promise. They are tools for helping build a new and stronger food-production framework—one of inestimable value for the hungriest and most destitute nations.

THE SPECIES

This promise (and much more) is described in the body of this book. There, the following species are covered in detail.

African Rice

Most people think of rice as an exclusively Asian crop, but farmers have grown a native rice (Oryza glaberrima) in parts of West Africa for at least 1,500 years. This crop comes in a wealth of different types that are planted, managed, prepared, and eaten in different ways. Some mature extremely quickly and will fit into seasons and situations where other cereals fail. The grain is much like common rice, although the husk around it is usually red. This plant not only has promise in its own right, its genes might also eventually benefit the production of common rice worldwide. (See chapter 1, page 17.)

3  

Spore, June 1995.



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