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Geo509 Major Paper

2927 words - 12 pages

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to analyze and illustrate the geographical origins of eragrostis tef along with details of its global dispersion. The common name of the crop in Ethiopia is tef. It was chosen for its cultural significance and it’s importance

Background

In Ethiopia, about 4.9 million acres of land is devoted to its production every year. From 2003-2005 production statistics indicated that tef accounted for about 29% of the land and 20% of the gross grain production of all major cereal cultivation in the country (National Research Council).

Eragrostis tef belongs to the grass family Poaceae, and is species of Eragrostis. It ...view middle of the document...

Varieties of Tef
* Magna (white) tef – This type is grown in the cooler seasons and is slow maturing. It is superior for grain due to its higher demand in the market. But it is blander in taste compared to the darker types (Seyfu).
* Sergegna (mix of white and brown), kay (red), and tiqur (black) tef – This type is superior for fodder and is faster maturing. The darker the color the richer in flavor and nutrients (Seyfu).
* Abolse tef – An improved strain being tested and studied currently in Ethiopia. It has shown good results in early studies based upon its yield and baking quality. There is no record of this new strain being distributed as of yet (Kloman).

Due to its properties to survive and grow through harsh climates, Ethiopian farmers grow tef for either two purposes as a staple or as a standby product. When planted as a staple, they grow it as their primary component in their trade or business. So it is normally planted late and harvested well into the dry season. But as a standby, the farmers wait till their main crop such as maize or wheat shows signs of failing. They then plant a faster maturing tef such as the red or brown tef as a backup source of food in case of disaster.

What also makes tef very attractive is that it is a grain that contains no gluten, at least none of the type found in wheat (Ingram). For this reason people with severe allergies to wheat gluten or health enthusiasts are buying tef these days.

Due to the seeds small size it makes it difficult to plant and prepare the fields. It is difficult to get an even distribution of seeds and also the wind or rain can bury the seeding before it has spouted. Then separating, inspecting and grinding such tiny seeds is very strenuous and time consuming.

History

Tef is common all over Ethiopia and its major varieties were found only in that part of the world. Among with numerous other crops, the precise date and location for the domestication of tef is unspecified. But, there is no uncertainty that it is actually an ageless crop, where domestication took place.

It has been documented by some historians such as Ponti that tef has long been cultivated in Ethiopia for its grain from some time between 4000 BC and 1000 BC (Engels); Shaw disputed that tef must have been domesticated before the introduction of wheat and barley to Ethiopia or else the tef, would have never been cultivated.

The use of tef was quite crucial for the Abyssinians, since the amount of tef seed required to plant were hundreds of times smaller than that of wheat (Ingram). This productive potential and minimal time and seed requirements have protected them from hunger when their food supply was under attack from numerous invaders in the past.

It was reported by Unger in 1866 that tef seeds were also found in the Egyptian Pyramid of Dashur in 3359 BC (National Research Council). Dried tef straws were suggested to have been used in the making of mud bricks...

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