Programme / Mainstreaming African Indigenous crop for sustainable food system

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Tuesday / 6 DEC

11:30 - 13:00

Side event:
Mainstreaming African Indigenous crop for sustainable food system
Venue: Meeting Rooms 1.43-1.44

The introduction of major commercial crops saw South Africa slowly tilting away from its own ancient food wealth and embracing the newly found crops. Research shows that there are between 300,000 to 500,000 existing plant species, about 30,000 are thought to be edible while only 7, 000 have been cultivated or collected as food and yet only 20 species provide 90% of the world’s food requirements with wheat, maize and rice contributing 60% of man’s diet. South Africa boasts a rich tapestry of agro-biodiversity of which underutilised fruits and crops form part. Indigenous fruit and crops are regarded as ‘future food’ as they are earmarked to sustainably address topical challenges like food and water insecurity under climate change. There is a growing need to accord indigenous crops due attention owing to their genetic diversity, nutrient density, and their adaptation to ecological niches. Compared to staple crops which are increasingly becoming less resilient to worsening climatic conditions, traditional crops are often well adapted to local growing conditions. As such, over the last decade, the Water Research Commission (WRC) and its strategic partners have carried out research on indigenous crops. Results show that indigenous food species are resilient and adapted to the needs of farmers in marginal agricultural environments. Evidence also suggests that including indigenous fruit and crops in cropping systems could contribute to agro-ecosystem and dietary diversity to improve nutrition. In this regards, this workshop aims highlight the potential of underutilised fruit trees and crops under water scarcity, determine their potential to contribute to a water-food-nutrition-health nexus, and identify challenges that exist for their promotion.