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close this bookBetter Farming Series 15 - Cereals (FAO - INADES, 1977, 51 p.)
close this folderWhat are food crops?
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View the documentWhat cereals are grown in Africa?
View the documentWhy cereals are grown
View the documentWhy we should produce and sell more cereals
View the documentTraditional cereal growing


To live, man must eat.

· At one time men gathered and picked the fruits, leaves, and seeds of trees and plants. To get meat and fish they hunted and fished.

· But nowadays hunting, fishing and food gathering are no longer enough to feed all the people. Crops have to be grown to provide food. These crops are called food crops.

· Nowadays the inhabitants of African villages grow many food crops.

They grow mainly:

· cereals such as sorghum, millet, rice, maize;
· tubers such as yams, sweet potatoes, cocoyams, tania, potatoes;
· root crops such as cassava;
· legumes such as cow peas, Bambarra groundnuts, groundnuts and soybeans;
· bananas and plantains.

In this book/et we study only cereals.

We shall deal with other food crops in other booklets.

What cereals are grown in Africa?

Cereals are plants that yield grains. Grains are used to feed both man and beast.

· Certain cereals are grown in almost all parts of Africa. These are mainly millet, sorghum, maize and rice. Millet and sorghum are grown in savanna country where it is dry. Maize is grown everywhere, in savanna country and in forest country. Rice used to be grown only in certain regions. But now more and more rice is eaten in Africa and it is grown everywhere.

· Other cereals are less known. They are grown only in some regions. Fonio is grown in west Africa. Finger millet (Eleusine) is grown in Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. Teff is grown in the mountains of Ethiopia. Wheat is a cereal of cold countries, but it grows well in regions near deserts such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, as well as in hilly regions like eastern Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi.

In this book/et we shall deal chiefly with sorghum, millet and maize. We shall not speak about rice because there are two booklets on rice, one on upland rice and one on wet paddy or swamp rice. We shall deal briefly with fonio, finger millet and wheat.

Why cereals are grown

We grow cereals for their grain.

· Cereal grains are rich foods.

They are energy foods. To live, work, walk, men need plenty of energy, plenty of strength. Cereal grains give this strength.

They are body- building foods. Men need to eat such builder foods in order to grow, to make their bodies, their skin and muscles. These builder foods are the proteins. Cereal grains contain lots of protein.

· Cereal grains are good food

· for people. The inhabitants of savanna regions live mainly on millet. In all African countries rice has become a very important food.

· for animals. When animal power is used in farm work, the animals have to be well fed. To make the animals strong, we give them millet or maize as a feed supplement. Maize can also be given to chickens and pigs.

Cereals can be grown in order to give their green stems to animals. With the green stems you can make hay and silage (See the course on animal husbandry).

Why we should produce and sell more cereals

We must produce more food to feed more people.

There are more people in the world. Fewer children die. Men and women live longer.

· We must produce more food to sell to people who do not grow any.

Many people go to live in towns. These men and women do not farm the land; they buy their food. Even in villages there are men and women who have new jobs, such as teachers, officials, traders. They do not farm the land. So the farmers have to produce more millet, more maize, more rice, to sell to people in towns and villages who do not farm the land.

· Farmers should produce more cereals.

But near the villages there are often no new fields to cultivate.

In savanna country there is no time during the short rainy season to cultivate bigger fields.

So farmers must produce more from the same area.

That means they must increase the yield of their cereal crops.

But you cannot increase the yield much if you farm in the traditional way.

Traditional cereal growing

· In traditional farming the African farmer clears the land a little, cuts down the herbage and small trees, makes a brush fire and sows. He cultivates this field for two or three years, then leaves it and clears another field. This is called shifting cultivation.

This way of farming is bad. The brush fires spoil the soil and destroy the organic matter. Every year the farmer has to clear a new field. He loses much time and often sows too late.

With shifting cultivation a great deal of land is unused and produces no harvest. Sometimes there is not enough land to feed the people. In many places shifting cultivation cannot be done any more.

· The farmer works with only a few tools. He uses only a machete and a hoe. He cuts the trees and the herbage with the machete. He scratches the soil a little with the hoe. The soil is not well turned over, and water and air do not get well into the soil. Plants are not well nourished.

· The farmer does not enrich the soil. Usually he has no animals, and so does not put any manure on the field. He does not use fertilizers. So the soil stays poor and yields a small harvest.