By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Trish Nyarumbu
Although being neglected and underutilized, traditional African vegetables offer hope within our communities as a source of income and food. The vegetables offer a diverse base in terms of the nutrients required for growth by the body. Traditional vegetables have in the past been regarded as poor man’s crop and have thus received very little attention. However, with the increase of chronic diseases which are associated with urbanization, the demand for indigenous African leafy vegetables is on the rise.
The prices are exorbitantly high in the local supermarkets due to high and increasing demand. A number of organizations in Zimbabwe including local NGOs, the National Aids Council, Universities, Government Research and Extension services have embarked on programs to promote the production and utilization of local indigenous vegetables in support of the country’s Food and Nutrition Policy.
The Horticulture Research Institute is currently involved in the selection, conservation, multiplication and marketing of indigenous vegetable seeds such as Brassica juncea (leaf mustard) (Figure 1), Cleome gynandra (spider plant) , Amaranthus hybridus (mowa), Bidens pilosa (black jack) and Brassica carinata (ethiopian mustard)(Figure 2).
Farmers and farmer groups have been trained on improving their production processes and on how to add value to the traditional vegetables. Local NGOs such as CAADs and CTDO have taught communities solar drying of vegetables, proper packaging and branding to improve product presentation and prevent post-harvest loses during peak periods of harvest.
Production information is available in the form of production manuals and pamphlets. Awareness has been raised with exhibitions or agricultural shows.
Pictures were taken at the Horticultural Research Institute in Zimbabwe.