"A ‘Revolutionary’ Way to Feed the World That’s Very Old"

"The U.S. global food security envoy is pushing to bring back traditional African crops that American policies helped to sideline."

"Cary Fowler once helped build an Arctic vault to save the world’s great variety of crop seeds from extinction. Now, as the State Department’s global envoy for food security, he is trying to plant a new seed in U.S. foreign policy.

Instead of urging developing countries to grow only huge amounts of staple grains, like maize, as American policy has done for decades in Africa, Mr. Fowler is promoting a return to the great variety of traditional crops that people used to grow more of, like cowpeas, cassava and a range of millets.

He calls them “opportunity crops” because they’re sturdy and full of nutrients.

The effort is still in its infancy, with a relatively tiny budget of $100 million. But at a time when climate shocks and rising costs are aggravating food insecurity and raising the risks of political instability, the stakes are high.

Mr. Fowler’s boss, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the idea could be “genuinely revolutionary.”"

Somini Sengupta reports for the New York Times January 22, 2024.

Source: NYTimes, 01/23/2024