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Africa is home to more unknown history than known. A map of Africa does not begin to show the vastness of people, culture, food, living and ancient history. Established 2008 Chic African Culture and The African Gourmet are learning tools to meet the demand for better education about the entire continent of Africa.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is corn, maize and the future of farming in Africa

What is corn, maize and the future of farming in Africa

African Corn Soup recipe and a brief explanation of the difference between corn and maize and the future of farming corn in Africa

South African woman grinding corn into cornmeal for dinner
South African woman grinding corn into cornmeal for dinner

What is corn, maize and the future of farming in Africa

Sweet corn is delicious on its own, but classic South African corn is also a delicious way to serve sweet corn. Corn soup is inexpensive to make but very filling, add a piece of sourdough bread or cornbread and you will have an inexpensive wonderful dinner in no time.

Explore and Understand Africa Through Her Food and Culture

30-minute Mealie African Corn Soup

30-minute Mealie African Corn Soup
African Recipes by

In this South African vegetarian corn soup recipe, sweet corn is balanced with the spicy flavor of red pepper. 

 Prep time: Cook time: Total time:


One 15 ounce can whole kernel corn
One 15 ounce can cream corn
1 can evaporated milk
3 cups chicken stock
One 14 ounce can tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper


In a large pot on medium heat, add oil then sauté onions one minute. Drain the can of whole kernel corn then add all ingredients into a large saucepan. Heat soup on medium for about 10 minutes and serve warm with the bread of your choice. 
30-minute Mealie African Corn Soup

Did you know?
Smothered Chicken or Inyama Yenkukhu is another classic South African dish and was one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite chicken dishes.

A brief explanation of the difference between corn and maize and the future of farming corn in Africa

The United States grows over 90 million acres of corn a year, and 99 percent of it is not the kind that humans eat on the cob. That is right, corn is not just corn there are many different types and uses. The kind people eat on the cob is known as sweet corn, and it makes up only one percent of the corn grown in the U.S. each year. Moreover, if you are looking for popcorn, that is a completely different kind of corn, too. The other 99 percent of corn that dominates our American farms is known as field corn used to make food products like cornmeal, corn chips, and corn syrup, but it is primarily grown for animal feed.

The word maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word for the plant, mahiz. The six major types of maize are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn. High sugar varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for us humans to eat, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed, the other corn-based human food uses include cornmeal or masa, corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages like bourbon whiskey. Maize is preferred in formal, scientific, and international usage because it refers specifically to this one grain, unlike corn, which refers only to the sweet corn variety with high sugar content.

Of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to food supplies. Just 15 crop plants provide 90 percent of the world's food energy intake, with three rice, maize, and wheat making up two-thirds. These three are the staples of over 4000 million people.

Farms have been getting bigger and bigger in the developed countries as tens of thousands of small farmers, unable to make a living, have left the land. Most of North America's food is now produced by large-scale, commercial operations. Often they integrate production with food processing, marketing, and distribution in a complete agribusiness system. By contrast, farms in most of the developing world consist of small, family-owned plots, many of which have been cultivated for generations. Small farmers constitute over half the world's rural poor, but they produce about four-fifths of food supplies in developing countries.

Climate change, depletion of natural resources and stagnating cereal yields threaten world food security. World demand for maize, rice, and wheat are projected to increase by 33 percent by 2050. However, one-third of farmland is degraded, and agriculture’s share of water is falling. One solution is intercropping. Intercropping, in which maize and legumes are planted simultaneously in the same or alternating rows. Another approach is relay cropping, where maize and legumes are planted on different dates and grow together for at least a part of their life cycle. When maize and beans are intercropped, their yields are generally lower than those of maize or beans grown in the cultivation of a single crop in a given area.

Corn grows fast and needs lots of water to grow properly. To come to harvest quickly corn requires warm temperatures, rich soil, and even, regular watering. The strain on Africa’s agriculture due to internal conflicts, climate change, and poor infrastructure leaves doubt whether that sweet piece of corn will be on the plate of millions of Africans. African land ownership and grazing rights ownership has been decided by customary laws rather than written ownership through governmental deeds. The land is a political resource throughout Africa lending to the cycle of poverty limiting the Africans resources to owning land in Africa.

Planting decisions are made principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year and secondarily toward income-producing crops. Subsistence farming on insecure land continues today in large parts of rural Africa. Agricultural productivity in Africa overall has declined sharply in the past 40 years. This is a glaring difference from the 1960s when some African regions were major agricultural exporters of crops. Farming is a risky business anywhere in the world, but especially if you are a subsistence farmer in Africa.

Agriculture has always played a fundamental role in the lives of people on the African continent. Whether the food is grown for household consumption or for sale women farmers contribute heavily to Africa’s agriculture. Around the world, there are distinct roles given to women. Traditional agriculture used in Africa for centuries, since around 1500 B.C. African women processed the grain using the same agriculture techniques in 2015. Old-style hand tools and growing methods for agriculture changed little in 3,515 years in Africa. Agricultural productivity in Africa is rising but still lags behind much of the world.

Millions of female African farmers face a range of problems, including traditional attitudes of the role of women, denied access to owning land and claiming the land of a dead spouse or relative, not understanding their right under the law, access to credit and fruitful farming materials like fertilizers, pesticides, and farming tools. Over 70 percent of the unstable subsistence, farming population lives in the rural areas of Africa.

To many people living in Africa, foods such as wild greens, yams, corn, millet, cassava, teff, rice, sorghum, and groundnuts are indispensable in the diet. Traditional crops such as yam, sorghum, millet, and teff are grown in Africa for centuries. Traditional simple hand tools for threshing, winnowing, and milling are commonly used throughout Africa has changed little in 3,515 years. 

Rural African diets are influenced by mainly subsistence farming specific to the geographical region. Africa has enormous potential, not only to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity but also to be a major player in global food markets.

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