Promoting Neglected and Underutilized Crop Species
Crops that have been forgotten over the last century are being rediscovered. Scientists and policymakers are now beginning to recognize the value of so-called ‘orphan' crops, affirming what local communities have known for generations. The African Yam Bean, the Desert Date and Ber (a stocky tree with a vitamin-rich berry) exemplify the paradigm. Though not traded internationally, they are uniquely adapted to their local environments and play a vital role in supporting diverse diets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Also known as ‘neglected and underutilized', ‘minor' or ‘promising' crops, orphan crops have been overlooked by research, extension services and policy makers; governments rarely allocate resources for their promotion and development. That results in farmers planting them less often, reduced access to high quality seeds, and loss of traditional knowledge.
Neglected and underutilized species have been overshadowed by those in greater demand. Of the 30,000 edible plant species, a mere 30 are used to feed the world.