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From CIAT BLOG (An African grass comes home for good) – <strong>Part 1: Adding value to biodiversity</strong>
– See more at: http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/2014/10/23/an-african-grass-comes-home-for-good/#sthash.jL6OayAR.dpuf
Ask any non-African what they usually associate with this continent – at least when a crisis like the current Ebola outbreak isn’t capturing everyone’s attention – and they’re likely to mention Africa’s spectacular big game. But what if someone were to make the case that a far less charismatic slice of Africa’s biological diversity – particularly an un-photogenic forage grass called Brachiaria – also deserves special attention because of its potential to deliver big economic gains for the region while also improving the environment?
Feeding sustainable development
The subtle appeal of this tropical grass is unlikely to inspire many documentary films. But it does motivate a group of scientists working in Eastern and Central Africa to promote the plants for improving agriculture and natural resources. The researchers’ goal is to provide farmers with new and more powerful ways to intensify crop and livestock production sustainably. This is absolutely vital for achieving food and nutrition security in the region, while also creating wealth in rural communities.
High population growth and rapid urbanization are boosting the demand for food, which is supplied mostly by so-called “mixed” farming systems. Combining crops and animals, these systems provide livelihoods for a majority of the region’s rural population. But mixed farming has fundamental problems – such as declining soil fertility and increasing pest pressures – which prevent it from keeping pace with burgeoning food demand. The production of milk and meat in particular are constrained by a lack of good quality animal feed, among other problems.