Cactus pears are generating new attention due to their ability to adapt and thrive under extreme environmental conditions. As the planet continues to heat up due to climate change, the green cactus pear has been touted as “green gold” and “the food of the future”. Also, the cactus pear can help fight climate change by sequestering carbon.
All of this represents new areas of growth for a plant that has been cultivated for more than a millennium. Originating in Mexico, the cactus pear (Opuntia Spp), has since spread to drylands across the globe. News.globallandscapesforum.org explains how its ability to survive extreme heat while using little water holds promise for large- and small-scale growers as the world is forecast to experience prolonged droughts, less rainfall and booming populations in the coming decades.
Already, countries around the world, from Brazil to India and Israel, have begun harvesting cactus pears. In Africa, where drylands cover about two-thirds of the continent, cactus pears have found a niche as well, as many agricultural areas have seen declines in productivity.
In Morocco, vendors sell the fruit to be eaten on the spot. Growers in Ethiopia have produced jam sold in trendy stores in Italy. South Africa too is exploring ways to boost cultivation. And in southern Madagascar, the cactus fruit has provided critical food for communities on the edge of famine.
Photo source: Dreamstime.com