Are the crop world’s “big three” stealing the show?

Star attraction: Delegates are concerned the three food security crops are leaving crops like cassava in the shade

Are key crops such as cassava and sorghum being neglected in favour of the “big three” (rice, wheat and maize)?

The CGIAR’s thematic area (formerly known as mega-programme) three, ‘Optimising productivity of global food security crops’, generated some engaging dialogue about whether the organisation is prioritising the right crops.

“Why are we ignoring sorghum, barley, millet and legumes?” APAARI’s Raj Paroda wanted to know. Lydia Sasu of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana agreed. “We don’t eat maize in my area!” she exclaimed, to nods of approval. “I would be very grateful if you could consider other crops.”

Marianne Banziger – deputy director general, Research and Partnership, at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, CIMMYT, – assured delegates that the CGIAR was not suggesting these were the only important crops, reminding them that this is just one area and that the crops being put forward would be addressed in other programmes. But she admitted: “It has not been covered adequately where [within the thematic areas] other crops will be taken care of”.

It was a long time before the issue was put to rest.

“If I don’t see cassava, if I don’t see plantain, it would be hard for me to support the CGIAR,” warned a delegate from the African Development Bank. And a delegate from Gabon said: “We need strong programmes for other crops in order to really address the food security of those people who depend on these crops.”

Feedback from all eight sessions will be presented tomorrow. I look forward to seeing whether the “ignored” crops have managed to find a home in the CGIAR’s reforms.

Naomi Antony
Assistant news editor, SciDev.Net

One Response to Are the crop world’s “big three” stealing the show?

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