Durum wheat: a staple crop for food security
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Durum wheat is the 10th most important crop produced on the planet, and its consumption is nearly as old as civilisation itself. The Phoenicians were the first traders that sold its products along the shores of Mediterranean, and it is today the basic ingredient for several traditional foods in all countries by this sea. It is not cultivated only by smallholder farmers on marginal lands. In many parts of the world durum wheat is preferred over common wheat for its ability to provide higher yields, better withstand several diseases (yellow rust and stem rust especially), and fetch a higher price on the market. Durum grains are extremely rich in fibres (whole grain), carbohydrates, β-carotenes (precursor of the vitamin A), proteins, and a very good source of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. The consumption of durum products is common among athletes in all sport disciplines as it provides an ideal energy source that can be rapidly assimilated and burned. At ICARDA, the International Center for the Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas we consider and promote the following three key aspects of durum wheat: food security for those smallholder farmers that base their sustainability on the cultivation f this crop, poverty alleviation for those medium to large farmers that sell their harvest on the market, and health when considering the great nutritional benefits associated with the foods derived from durum wheat. ICARDA has also started an investigation for durum and common wheat cultivation along the Senegal River in Mauritania, Senegal and Mali also during winter months. This challenging project has the potential to produce nearly 5 million tons of "new" food in Sub-Saharan Africa.