By Peter Mutai NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Wheat farming has the potential to feed
the rising population in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a senior
official with the global maize and wheat research institution
said on Saturday.
Dr. Martin Kropff,
the Director General of the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CIMMYT), said wheat crop has the potential
of forming major part of Africa’s food transformation to self
“It is unacceptable
that the region still import wheat valued at 13 billion U.S.
dollars yet the demand for the product is growing by five
percent every year,” Kropff said in Nairobi on Saturday.
He noted that the
growing annual expenditure on wheat imports should be a key
reason for strengthening collaboration, investing in research
and development and putting in place policies that could favor
Kropff noted that
researchers at CIMMYT have developed various wheat disease
resistant varieties that thrive well in drought prone regions of
In SSA, only 10
percent of land is used for growing wheat with an average
productivity of 2.2 tons per hectares that accounts for 44
percent of wheat consumed locally.
The balance shows
that Africa has a large potential for economically profitable
The low adoption is
however blamed on the introduction of the crop that positioned
it as a large scale crop and non African, hence keeping small
scale farmers from growing it.
Its production had
been restricted in South Africa, North Africa and the Highlands
of Ethiopia and Kenya.
But over the past
two decades, its consumption increased due to the increasing
population, demographic changes such as rising economy,
urbanization and changed dietary preferences that have made it
competitive to maize, beans, root crops and indigenous crops
that are viewed as African staple food.
“The region requires
small scale machinery and a thriving insurance system to help
make farming profitable and begin to attract the youths and
women,” Kropff added.
Kropff revealed that
CIMMYT is currently working towards adapting successful
mechanization technologies that can respond to the needs of
African small scale farmers and also ensure that women get
empowered through these technologies.
“We need to create
the conditions for an efficient service industry to emerge and
develop resilient systems to address the livelihoods of the
people in rural areas,” Kropff added.
Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Willy Bett
revealed that the government has embarked on serious wheat
farming to help reduce the imports that currently stands at 70
eradication of the U99 wheat disease that destroyed farms and
the introduction of new resistant varieties, local wheat is
expected to become competitive in the near future,” Bett added.
He said that Kenya’s
reliance on relief food has reduced tenfold due to the
introduction of drought tolerant varieties and adoption of
He said that the
government has engaged millers and instructed them to pay
farmers well so as to encourage them to grow the crop in large
Representative for Africa Stephen Mugo said that the
organization has spent 37 million dollars for research on maize
and wheat in Africa.
He called on the
governments to utilize part of the money used in importing wheat
to meet local demand into research.
“It is time we put
emphasis into growing wheat since it is a drought tolerant crop
that suits well with the climatic conditions in the region,”
He said that the
organization has put in place surveillance and vigilance
measures against wheat diseases outbreak in Zambia and Zimbabwe
where it has not been reported.
Mugo said that wheat
farming requires integrated and best fit technologies for
rain-fed and irrigated wheat systems.
suitable technologies, high yielding varieties, access to
affordable inputs and effective and sustainable wheat seed
systems,” he added.