The OalyNewo. Fday. June 14, 99M 21
Africa is an untapped garden of Eden
Scientists have proven through
archaeological findings of human
fossils that Africa is the.birth place
The birth of civilization in Africa
is also noted in the Bible, Genesis
"And a river went out of Eden to
water the garden; and from thence it
was parted, and became four heads.
The name of the first is Pishon; that
is it which compasseth the whole
land of Havilah, where there is
gold: And the gold of that land is
good; there is bdellium and the
onyx stone. And the name of the
second river is Gihon; the same is it
that compasseth the whole land of
Ethiopia. And the name of the third
river is Hiddekel; that is it which
goeth toward the east of Assyria.
And the fourth river is Euphrates."
Thus, part of Africa was the orig-
inal garden of Eden. The second
river in the garden of Eden is
known today as the Nile.
Africa has 95 percent of the
world's wealth in natural resources
from gold to diamonds. The
wildlife and plants in Africa are
abundant and diverse in species.
Yet, despite all the wealth Africa
has, it is one of the poorest conti-
nets in the world.
In my opinion, I believe that this
is mainly due to the untapped natural
esoues the continent possesses.
Africa often evokes images of
famine, drought, starvation and
malnutrition. Yet, scientists say, the
sub-Saharan area of Africa alone is
home to more than 2.000 grains,
roots, fruits, vegetables and other
foods that has the potential to feed
the whole continent and even the
rest of the world.
The National Research Academy
of Science stated that, "Africa
which seems to face a perpetual
food crisis, is full of overlooked and
undeveloped food plants that are
not being fully exploited in the fight
Africa has more indigenous vari-
eties of cereals than any other conti-
nent in the world, including its own
species of sorghum, millet, rice and
several other crops.
"This is a good heritage that has
fed people for generation after gen-
eration stretching back to the ori-
gins of mankind," one scientists
said. "But, strangely, it has largely
been by passed in modem times."
Guinea grass, native to West
Africa, is a good example of a crop
developed to its potential. The grass
is considered today as the "bread-
and-buter" grass of the Caribbean,
especially for the Virgin Islands'
The grass is also use medicinally
to expel worms from children. Also,
a local drink called chlorophyll is
made from the grass.
Caribbean scientists have
improved the guinea grass and now
a number of commercially varieties
are available. But in Africa. many
of its native plants have lost out in
popularity to such imports as rice.
wheat and maize.
During Africa's colonial period,
European missionaries and
researchers judged unfamiliar
indigenous grains inferior to foreign
cereals such as wheat and com.
The imported grains made conve-
nient and attractive by modern
milling, processing and packaging.
also became the favorites of Africa.
Over the years, African grains took
on a stigma of being second-rate
food forth poor.
Studying and improving indige-
nous grains in Africa should
become an international priority,
many scientists say. This, they
believe, will create a new front in
battling Africa's food shortages.
African grains tend to be hardy,
less dependent upon large amounts
of water and more heat- and
drought-tolerant than other major
cereal crops, experts says. African
rice, fonio. pearl millet, sorghum
and tef are potential grains scien-
tists ar looking at.
Farmers have grown rice in West
Africa for about 1.500 years. This
rice's genetic characteristics might
be transferred to other rice to bene-
fit production worldwide,
Fonio is another grain that
researchers should concentrate on
because ofits high nutritional values.
Pearl millet was grown as wild
grass in the southem Sahara 4,000
years ago. This grain has potential
of becoming a major food crop
worldwide because of its tolerance
to heat and drought.
Although sorghum has spread
from Africa to become a staple food
for millions of people in dozens of
nations. it is relatively undeveloped.
Tef is a staple cereal of Ethiopia
that is ground into flour and used to
make the flat, fermented bread.
called injera, that sustains millions
of people. This grain is rich in pro-
tein and iron, and well-balanced in
amino acids, but little or no
research has been done on the crop.
As research begins to focus on
Africa grain crops, the Virgin Islands
and the test of the world will benefit
from the once-garden of Eden.
Olasee Davis, who holds a maser
of science degree in range manage-
meni and forestry ecology, is a St.
Croix ecologist, activisand wrier.