African food before farming
Before people started farming, African hunters and gatherers ate mainly fruit (especially figs), with some meat and fish and seafood and eggs. Along the coasts, Africans also fished and gathered shellfish.
What did African people eat?
They harvested wild grain and nuts to eat, and gathered honey. They got a lot of their fat from nuts, groundnuts, and palm oil. By 7000 BC, people in North Africa also began herding local cattle. People milked the cows and made yogurt and cheese.
Teff, millet, barley and beer
Around 6000 BC, as the climate changed and the Sahara Desert gradually took over the grasslands, it got harder to get food and so some African people began to farm some of their food. By 4000 BC, people in Ethiopia, and Eretria had domesticated a grain called teff, and in Sudan people had domesticated millet and sorghum. Millet is a lot like barley and could also be made into bread or mush (like a thick oatmeal). People in West Africa also gradually domesticated local millet and other grasses.
In North Africa and Egypt, people farmed millet too, but also, the wheat and barley, lentils and chickpeas that had already been domesticated in West Asia. So these people began to eat mainly pita bread and porridge and barley soups, like the people of West Asia. People in Egypt also made their barley into beer.
Sheep and goats
Around the same time, African people also got sheep and goats and pigs from West Asia. Some people kept sheep and goats and cattle, and others were farmers. The shepherds traded their meat and cheese to the farmers for bread and beer.
Chicken replaces pork
West African yams
In the rain forests south of the Sudan, you couldn’t grow any kind of grasses, because it was too wet and jungly.
Here people began to farm root vegetables, especially yams, and so they lived mainly on yams and a lot of dried fish. One kind of food cooked with yams was eto. But people still also kept eating all the foods they had eaten before they started farming: figs and honey, groundnuts, palm oil, and fish.
A Taste of West Africa (Food Around the World) by Colin Harris