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Cactus pear upgraded to an essential crop in South Africa

The South African Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), advises growers in dryland areas to take a closer look to the cactus pear as a valuable asset, especially for food and livestock feed.

According to an article on, cactus pear experts are advising farmers and policymakers make more strategic and efficient use of this natural resource. The cactus proved a crucial supply of food and water for local people and their animals during the recent intense drought in southern Madagascar.

The Opuntia species has much to offer, especially if treated like a crop. Today the opuntia ficus-indica subspecies is naturalised in 26 countries beyond its native range. The FAO launched a book with updated insights into the plant's genetic resources, physiological traits, soil preferences and vulnerability to pests. 

Cactus pear cultivation is slowly catching on in other dry, poor soil, high temperature regions. Today, Brazil is home to more than 500,000 hectares of cactus plantations and the plant is also commonly grown on farms in North Africa; Ethiopia's Tigray region has around 360,000 hectares.

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