Australian Acacias for food security in semiarid Africa: A multidisciplinary assessment

July 31, 2014

Peter A. Yates


Many countries in semi-arid regions of Africa face serious challenges to food security due to a combination of population growth, resource degradation and climate change. In Niger, traditional agricultural systems, based primarily on pearl millet, are failing to produce to expectation as often as two years in three, with near total crop failures that lead to famine occurring approximately every five years.

Some Australian Acacias (A. colei, A. torulosa, A. tumida) are well adapted to the harsh and variable climate of southern Niger, and have been shown to support rural livelihoods through the production of edible seed, wood and environmental services. The nutritional value of many species of acacia seed is well documented, with the main lacunae concerning the potentially anti-nutritional and toxic effects of non-protein amino acids. This thesis shows that acacia seed has strong potential for use as a human food so long as the seed is appropriately processed. Acacia seed can fit into local diets in Niger from a cultural and nutritional viewpoint. The seed of the Australian acacias is high in protein and is an excellent nutritional complement to millet. The author was able to incorporate acacia seed into a local staple recipe to produce a nutritious food that is well accepted by Hausa people.

The potential of a complementary food based on acacia seed is assessed in this thesis. The proposition is feasible in terms of acacia production systems, cost, nutritional content and cultural acceptability. Acacia seed is likely to be suitabe for use as an ingredient in a locally produced food aid product aimed primarily at reducing child malnutrition. Further work will be required to determine the significance of djenkolic acid which is found in acacia seed. The research shows that djenkolic acid content can be reduced by more than 90% through appropriate processing.