Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

New Crops and Uses: Their role in a rapidly changing world

J. Smartt and N. HaqCentre for Underutilised Crops, University of Southampton 2008The Centre for Under-utilised Crops in the University of Southampton organised the 5th International Symposium on New Crops and Uses on 3rd and 4th September, 2007. The European Centre for Under-utilised Crops (ECUC) Trust, the International Foundation for Science (IFS), the UK National non-food Crops Centre (NNFCC) and the Tropical Agriculture Association were partners in its organisation. The papers are available and are grouped under the following headings: The context, justification and application of underutilised crops in a rapidly changing world; The need for underutilised crops in a changing world; and Success, failures and lessons learned- food and nutritional crops: case studies.


African leafy vegetables: their role in the World Health Organization’s global fruit and vegetables initiative

F.I. Smith and P. Eyzaguirre African Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development 7 (3): 1-17.2007This paper explores ways to integrate African indigenous leafy vegetables into the global fruit and vegetable programme initiative, and identifies some existing barriers to their effective mobilization. African leafy vegetables are increasingly recognized as possible contributors of both micronutrients and bio-active compounds in the diets of populations in Africa. Available data on the more commonly consumed varieties point to antioxidants and significant amounts of beta carotene, iron, calcium and zinc to daily diets in the leafy vegetables. How can the successful Nairobi leafy vegetable experience, be mainstreamed across the subcontinent to ensure their mobilization and integration in WHO’s fruit and vegetable initiative? The Kobe framework recommends that interventions to promote fruit and vegetables should consider the process from production to consumption. An expert report on patterns of vegetable consumption in the subcontinent lists common vegetables as onions, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage. Very little is known about the production and consumption of African Leafy Vegetables. Clearly, information on production, processing, distribution and marketing, preparation and consumption of vegetable species relevant to Sub-Saharan Africa, are vital and constitute the prop on which intervention programmes can be developed.


Composition of selected foods from West Africa

B. Stadlmayr, U.R. Charrondiere, P. Addy, B. Samb, V.N. Enujiugha, R.G. Bayili, E.G. Fagbohoun, I.F. Smith, I. Thiam and B. Burlingame (Eds)Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.2010An overarching objective of Bioversity International’s food and nutrition programme is increasing the use of agro-biodiversity within local food systems and mainstreaming these food resources so that they are used in the daily diets of both urban and rural populations of developing countries in particular. However, work towards achieving this objective, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, has been greatly hampered by the lack of information on the nutrient and bioactive attributes of a very large proportion of these food resources – information that is vital for public education and awareness of the health-protecting benefits of these food resources, as well as for the development of effective agriculture, food and nutrition policies.


Indigenous Vegetables in Tanzania: Significance and Prospects

K. Weinberger and J. MsuyaAVRDC — The World Vegetable Center, Shanhua, Tainan, Taiwan2004African indigenous vegetables play a highly significant role in food security of the underprivileged in both urban and rural settings. They can serve as primary foods or secondary condiments to dishes prepared from domesticated varieties. They are also valuable sources of energy and micronutrients in the diets of isolated communities. Further, they may serve as income sources and may be marketed or traded locally, regionally, even internationally, and the primary importance of edible wild species during periods of drought and or social unrest or war is well documented. However, the important role of African indigenous vegetables in Tanzania’s health sector, diets and as an income source is threatened through extinction of the genetic resources of these species. Many landraces of vegetables are in the process of being replaced by modern varieties.


Lost Crops of Africa: Volumes 1-3

US National Research Council, Washington, D.C., USA1996, 2006, 2008There is an overlooked food resource in Sub-Saharan Africa that has vast potential: native food plants. All in all, Africa has more than 2,000 native grains and fruits--"lost" species due for rediscovery and exploitation. The first volume focuses on native cereals, dispelling myths about the nutritional value, flavour, and yield of African grains. The authors present information on where and how each grain is grown, harvested, and processed and list its benefits and limitations as a food source. The second volume describes the characteristics of 18 little-known indigenous African vegetables (including tubers and legumes) that have potential as food- and cash-crops but are typically overlooked by scientists and policymakers and in the world at large. The book assesses the potential of each vegetable to help overcome malnutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and create sustainable landcare in Africa. Each species is described in a separate chapter, based on information gathered from and verified by a pool of experts throughout the world. The third volume describes 24 little-known indigenous African cultivated and wild fruits that have potential as food- and cash-crops but are typically overlooked by scientists, policymakers, and the world at large. The book assesses the potential of each fruit to help overcome malnutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and create sustainable landcare in Africa. Each fruit is also described in a separate chapter, based on information provided and assessed by experts throughout the world.


Status of conservation of the indigenous leaf vegetables and fruits of Africa

O.C. Adebooye and J.T. OpabodeAfrican Journal of Biotechnology 3 (12): 700-705.2004The diversity of indigenous leaf vegetables and fruits of Africa is being seriously eroded as a result of multiplicity of environmental, political and socio-economic factors. This paper discusses some new development-related and crises factors that have interacted in concert to amplify the spate of loss of the indigenous leaf vegetables and fruits genetic resources in Africa. The paper also suggests urgent steps that nations individually and Africa in general can take to arrest the wave of loss of plant genetic resources and therefore ensure the conservation of our remaining indigenous leaf vegetables and fruits heritage.


Access to high value markets by smallholder farmers of African indigenous vegetables in Kenya

I.K. Ngugi, R. Gitau and J.K. Nyoro; Tegemeo Institute, Egerton University, Nairobi, Kenya; 2006 Consumers have become increasingly aware of the nutritional and medicinal value of African indigenous vegetables. This has caused a rise in demand especially in major urban centres. The supply has, however, not matched this growing demand. Most farmers are semi commercially oriented poor farmers, not organized, and lack inputs and skills to enable them to satisfy the dynamic market requirements. They are not able to access high-value markets such as supermarkets and are often exploited by middlemen. Responding to the changing consumption patterns and market opportunities occasioned by the growing demand for these vegetables in the urban centres, a number of farmers in collaboration with development agencies and government have come together to form producer groups to get around their constraints and meet the conditions in the markets. It is against this backdrop that this study was undertaken with the principal objective of identifying how small-scale farmers could better be integrated in the emerging and restructured markets such as supermarkets. The study identifies the factors attributed to successful inclusion in the chain supplying the dynamic markets and estimates the cost and benefits of the inclusion. The data used in the study were collected using a checklist of interviews with various stakeholders who were involved in the African indigenous vegetables business.


Strategic Framework for Underutilized Plant Species Research and Development, with Special Reference to Asia and the Pacific, and to Sub-Saharan Africa

H. Jaenicke and I. Höschle-Zeledon (Eds); International Centre for Underutilised Crops and Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species; 2006 This paper provides a Strategic Framework for underutilized plant species research and development activities. Developed through wide consultation, it aims to avoid duplication of effort and to help cover gaps in current knowledge, while allowing outputs and approaches to be synthesised regionally. The Framework acts as a roadmap to guide stakeholders as they develop the work plans needed to generate new knowledge, lobby policy makers, or develop markets. It will also guide efforts to set both research and funding priorities. Focusing on the differing needs and circumstances of two world regions – Asia and the Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa – the Strategic Framework outlines the outstanding challenges and opportunities to be considered in promoting increased use of these plants. An integrated, partnership approach is proposed, focusing on the following intervention areas to generate maximum impact: knowledge generation, communication, capacity building, policy improvement and market development.


An Evaluation of Native West African Vegetables

L.C. Shei Conference on International Research on Food Security, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development, Tropentag 2008, University of Hohenheim, Germany, October 7-9. 2008Although native west African vegetables are not well known and documented, the few that have been identified and analyzed within the scope of the current research prove to have profound nutritional, economic and medicinal potential which if well exploited would possibly open up new markets for the global commercialization of native West African vegetables likewise, encourage the local and global cultivation, consumption and conservation of many other native West African vegetables-especially those which are presently facing the threat of extinction. The nutritional, medicinal and economic contribution of jute, roselle, okro, false roselle, eru, cat’s whisker, bitter leaf, black nightshades, baobab, cowpeas, bambara groundnut, fluted pumpkin, African eggplant, eguti, grains of paradise, wild mango, pigeonpea, spice tree and winged beans are tabulated.


Cataloguing and evaluation of available community/farmers-based seed enterprises on African indigenous vegetables (AIVS) four ECA countries

M. Onim and P. MwanikiASARECA Report, Entebbe, Uganda.2008 The overall objective of this study was to identify available community/farmer-based seed enterprise initiatives that focus on African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs), evaluate the models/approaches used and recommend those that are promising for further development into economical viable models for scaling up. The following conclusions were reported: AIVs are easy to grow, are high in nutritional value, have great medicinal potential and provide incomes for many housewives. Seed production is a venture with high returns only if markets are available. The bundling of the produce without weighing led to loss of money or exploitation of the customers. There is need for more training on vegetable and seed production to ensure quality of seeds and leafy vegetables and on marketing. Record keeping is important for proper planning and determination of returns annually. Forming farmers’ groups makes it easier to access extension assistance.


Current Status of Fruits and Vegetables Production and Consumption in Francophone African Countries - Potential Impact on Health

J. Ganry; Proceedings of the IInd International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits & Vegetables B. Patil (Ed.), Acta Horticulturae 841: 249-256; 2009 This paper attempts to link the production of fruits and vegetables in francophone countries of Africa, to the prevalence of some chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. It is based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and information collected through a survey made in twenty francophone countries of Africa and Indian Ocean. The survey was in preparation for the workshop on 'Promotion of fruits and vegetable for health in francophone African countries', held in Yaounde, Cameroon, on 23-26th of October 2009. It was noted that there is a great diversity of situations related to the geographic position, the cultural traditions behaviour and economic situation. Very few countries are reaching the recommended intake of 400g of fruits and vegetables per capita per day. These are humid-forest countries including Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, Rwanda, and Burundi, where banana and plantains are the fruits most consumed. The situation in Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania is even worse with availability below one third of the critical level. A first analysis of data from FAO and WHO is supporting the assumption of a relation between a low consumption of fruits and vegetable and a high prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity in some conditions.


Plant domestication and genetic resources in Benin

Vodouhè R., Dansi, A., Avohou, H. T., Kpèki, B. and Azihou, F. (2011) Plant domestication and its contributions to in situ conservation of genetic resources in Benin. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation Vol. 3(2), pp. 40-56.This study shows that domestication is actively being carried out in the rural areas of Benin and appears as a one of the most appropriate practices for developing the diversity, increasing its use and conserving agricultural biodiversity in situ. The results highlighted the role that gender play in plant domestication and revealed that food security and health are the main motives behind adoption and cultivation of wild species. Thanks to local communities’ efforts, experiences and innovations, plant genetic diversity is being developed, preserved and sustainable use. Several factors limit full success of farmers’ initiatives: limited knowledge of plant reproductive biology, plant diseases and pests’ complex, climate variability and its impact on biodiversity. The authors suggest that scientific investigations on major constraints to plant domestication are needed. They recommend that multidisciplinary research focusing on individual plant species (leafy vegetables, herbs, fruits etc.) be conducted to better understand the influence of the domestication on the evolution of the species and that further baseline studies are needed on the uses and values of the species under domestication by the local communities throughout West Africa.


Specialty crops for Pacific Islands

Elevitch, C.R., (ed). 2011. Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands. Permanent Agriculture Resources. 546p.From bamboo to black pepper, cacao to coconut and tea to taro – Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands provides detailed cultivation, value-added, and marketing information for 26 of the most important specialty crops for Pacific Islands and other tropical locations. These crops provide a rapidly growing economic opportunity for innovative farmers and gardeners who are interested in diversifying their products. The book provides insights into sustainable cultivation and processing techniques for local and export markets with an emphasis on innovating production methods, postharvest processing, and marketing. The emphasis is on providing small farms with opportunities for local consumption and commercial sale.


Africa: Local innovations using traditional vegetables to improve soil quality

In 2002, fieldwork was carried out in 8 parishes in Uganda to study the use of indigenous knowledge in producing and consuming traditional vegetables such as "nakati" (Solanum aethiopicum), "ebugga" (Amaranthus dubius), "entula" (Solanum aethiopicum gilo), and "ejobyo" (Cleome gynandra). The proportion of land allocated for traditional vegetables has steadily increased since the 1970s, although exotic vegetables with their premium prices continue to have a greater land allotment. As mineral fertilizers were expensive and manure was still scarce, farmers tried to develop alternative methods to maintain the soil fertility, including fallowing and the incorporation of crop residues. They had found that the residues of traditional vegetables were particularly beneficial and had started rotating traditional vegetables with exotic ones such as common bean and tomato. While farmers did not have any formal networks for sharing knowledge, exchanges between friends, neighbours, and family seem to be effective. (It is extracted from an unpublished report by Hart, T, Abaijuka, I, Kawongolo, J, Rubaihayo, E, Kakonge, E & Mugisha, J (2002) 'The Identification and Recording of Indigenous Knowledge using Rapid Rural Appraisal Techniques: The cultivation and utilisation of Indigenous vegetables in the Mpigi District, Uganda.' The author acknowledges the contributions of the Ugandan researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organisation and Makerere University, Kampala.) Africa: Local innovations using traditional vegetables to improve soil quality Also available at KIT Library: KIT(K3019)


Accessibility to and consumption of indigenous vegetables and fruits by rural households in Matungu division, western Kenya

B.N. Ekesa, M.K. Walingo and M.O. Abukutsa-OnyangoAfrican Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development 9: 8.2009Unacceptably high rates of micronutrient deficiencies persist mostly among resource-poor communities who rely on subsistence farming. In these communities, consumption of vegetables and fruits is the most sustainable way of reducing micronutrient deficiencies. Apart from enhancing dietary diversity, indigenous vegetables and fruits are often easier to grow, resistant to pests, acceptable to local tastes, rich and cheap sources of micronutrients. Despite this, they are mostly associated with poverty. This paper gives results on accessibility to and consumption of indigenous vegetables and fruits by rural households obtained from a cross-sectional surveys carried out in Matungu division, western Kenya. Accessibility was measured by; availability at local markets, own production and obtaining from natural habitats while consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire. Two local markets were purposively selected and 120 households drawn from the population. Data was collected using market surveys and questionnaires and summarized using tables and charts. Of the 372 market stalls only 23.5% and 13.8% of them had indigenous vegetables (9 varieties) and fruits (4 varieties) respectively. Indigenous vegetables were only cultivated by 11.8% of the households; these included only six varieties and cowpea leaves (Vigna unguilata) were the most popular. Five indigenous fruit varieties were being gathered, and guavas were the most popular. Consumption of up to 9 varieties of indigenous vegetables was observed, with cow peas, jute mallow and amaranths reporting more than 50% consumption. Six varieties of indigenous fruits had been consumed. The low accessibility to and consumption of indigenous vegetables and fruits observed, pose a major nutrition problem. Caregivers, mothers and small-holder farmers should be educated on the role of indigenous vegetables and fruits in food security, nutrition and health. They should also be encouraged and supported to sustainably grow and utilize these fruits and vegetables.


The Case for Indigenous West African Food Culture

I.F. Smith Breda Series n° 91995A summary of the case for incorporating the indigenous plants used in West Africa into wider use is presented. The paper details the origins of the major West African food crops, and those used today by country and plant type. It also lists the nutritive value of commonly consumed legumes, starchy tubers, fruits and cereals. Urbanisation and changing lifestyles are affecting consumer utilization. Many traditional foods require specific and time-consuming processing, and lack of availability all year round couple with limited movement of fresh food produce constrains their use. In addition to popularisation campaigns, research is needed to produce more acceptable and versatile products based on indigenous food.


Use and potential of wild plants in farm households

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.1999This publication demonstrates the important contribution of wild plants to the life of rural households, particularly in developing countries. The enhanced use of these resources would increase income and food security, assist development through small-scale investment, improve the efficiency and profitability of farm household labour use and help eliminate or alleviate poverty. The role of wild plants, especially in rural farm households, is, however, very often ignored or underestimated by planners, policy-makers, aid and development agencies, banks, extension services, economists, agronomists, genetic resource organizations and others.


Traditional Pacific Island Crops

The goal of the Traditional Pacific Island Crops website is to provide organized access to quality, free Web resources that provide information on these twelve important traditional Pacific Island crops. This is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of resources. Resources are selected based on their relevance to Pacific islands. The emphasis is on collecting full-text resources so that Pacific Islanders - especially librarians, Extension agents, farmers, and students - can find and access the information they need to grow and market the 12 crops covered in the database.


Farming without soil

A handful of Cape Verdean farmers are growing their vegetables without soil, and say their method could increase food production and reduce the country's malnutrition problem. Hydroponics, from the Greek words for water and labour, swaps soil for a nutrient solution. It would appear to be the perfect solution for a country where less than ten per cent of the land is cultivatable — yet few people carry out hydroponics professionally. (Source:, 6 March 2009)