Geo 509 - Major Paper

Topics: Ethiopia, Teff, Injera Pages: 9 (2858 words) Published: November 11, 2012

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


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 contains about 350 species and tef is the only cultivated cereal (Seyfu).

Its name tef is originated from the Amharic word yate-tef-ah, which means, “lost”. Since the grains are so small they are easily misplaced (Kloman). It is the world’s smallest food grain and is as small as a grain of sand. It also has quite similar traits to other grains such as quinoa and millet.

Tef grows anywhere from 30 to 120 cm in height, with slim stems and long, narrow, smooth leaves. It is a loose or compact panicle. The really small grains are 1.5 mm long, and there are about 2,700 seeds in a gram (Seyfu).

The plant uses a Carbon 4 photosynthesis, which uses light efficiently while having low moisture demands. This gives the plant the ability to stand high heat and bright lighting therefore able to harvest in any unpredictable or difficult climate. Also the plant's resistance to diseases, pests, and heavy soils and it’s inexpensive costs to raise and very quick to produce give it special appeal (Tadele).

Tef tends to thrive under growing condition from elevations that range from sea-level to as high as 2800 meters, and in various temperatures, soil, terrains and rainfall conditions (not where there is too much rainfall though) (Seyfu).

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.


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...
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