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The Story Of... Sorghum

Sorghum, also known as millet, is a robust, tall cereal grass which grows wild throughout Tropical Africa and was the staple cereal for the earliest African agricultural communities.

Sometimes growing as high as 15 feet, sorghum is especially valued in hot and arid regions of the world, for its natural resistance to drought and heat. Its grains are usually mashed into a pulp, boiled and eaten, while its tough stalks can be used to make brooms and brushes.

High in carbohydrates, sorghum offers less protein than maize, rice or wheat, and those communities who rely on this staple sometimes suffer nutritionally as a result.

Originally domesticated nearly 7000 years ago in modern-day Ethiopia, sorghum was adopted by the migrating farmers of the tropical Niger-Congo and Sahel regions, and combined with their wet-tropical crops such as African yams and oil palms. Tolerant to both drought and flood, it has become adapted to poor soils and can produce grain where many other crops would fail.

This one crop is probably largely responsible for the success of the African agricultural revolution, laying the foundations for the extraordinary medieval trading empires seen throughout tropical Africa, and centered around prosperous city-states such as Mapungubwe.

Where to next?

Get more stories about crops including Corn, Wheat or Rice.


- Wheat
- Rice
- Corn
- Sorghum

- Cattle
- Goats
- Sheep
- Pigs
- Llamas
- Horse
- Zebra

- Smallpox
- Malaria

- Steel
- Writing

- Latitude and Climate
- Shape of the Continents
- Cities and Civilizations

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