Proceedings of The Third Workshop On Sustainable Horticultural Production in The Tropics 26th To 29th November 2003, Maseno University (MSU) Maseno-Kenya
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African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV s) are an important part of farming and consumption systems throughout Africa and are crucial for food security particularly during famine and natural disasters. They are easy to grow, require minimal external inputs and are very suitable to resource-poor farmers. When consumed frequently and prepared properly to maintain the nutritional value, vegetables can release and make available micronutrients as well as increase the bio-availability and effective absorption of micronutrients in other staple food crops. In many instances, low input AIVs are the only cash resource at the disposal of -the women for the welfare of their families.. Thus their improved consumption and utilization is the most direct, low-cost way for children, lactating mothers and urban and rural poor to improve their nutritional, health and income status. However, their cultivation is increasingly low and in most cases the vegetables are rarely available in the markets during the off seasons. Informal seed production systems of AIVs applied by farmers are limited to subsistence production which is endangered by opening of markets, direct competition between farmers and commercial seed suppliers as well as weak support for community based conservation systems. However, market-oriented farmers fail to meet consumer demands due to limited access to a wide variety of clean and certified seeds. The promotion of these crops will thus be beneficial in meeting emergent needs for food during dry seasons and in smoothening the effects of vegetable seasonality, which contributes to malnutrition. Since 1998, AVRDC-RCA has been involved in strategies to increase the consumption of under-exploited indigenous vegetables; which plays an important food-based role in eradication of vitamin A, iron and other micronutrient deficiencies so widely prevalent in African countries. Research and Development programs have been/are being implemented to increase the production, consumption and utilization of IV s in order to improve the nutritional, economic and social well-being of low-income groups at rural and urban households, particularly in times of seasonal food shortages when malnutrition is at its peak. AVRDC-RCA has collected and evaluated over 700 germplasm accessions of IV s but mainly from 15 common indigenous vegetables namely nightshade (Solanum scabrum/americanum/villosum), African eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum/ macrocarpon/anguivi), Ethiopian Mustard (Brassica carinata), spiderplant (Cleome gynandra), amaranth (Amaranthus dubius/ hybridus/lividus/ thumbergiii etc), jute mallow (Corchorus olitorius), okra (Abelmoschus esculentum/ caillei), pumpkin (Curcubita sp.), moringa (Moringa olifera), sun-hemp (Crotalaria ochroleuca), and vegetable cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Some of the IV lines have been purified, characterized and their cultivation and utilization practices have been developed, documented and are being disseminated. Twenty promising lines/varieties of Okra, Pumpkin, Moringa, African eggplant, Nightshade, Jute Mallow, Spider-plant, Ethiopian mustard, Amaranth, Vegetable cowpea and Sun hemp are currently available for promotion. AVRDC-RCA has been implementing several projects and programs geared towards improving the bio-diversity, production, marketing and consumption of indigenous vegetables. The Center has been focussing on the main constraints: collection, selection and purification of superior germplasm, development of cultural practices, adaptation for farmers use, promoting seed distribution and organizing access to seeds. Abukutsa-Onyango et al (2005) Proceedings of the Third Horticulture Workshop on Sustainable Horticultural Production in the Tropics, 26th -29th November 2003. Maseno University, MSU, Maseno, Kenya. 2 AVRDC-RCA Research and Development of Programs in Indigenous Vegetables In the past six years, AVRDCRCA has been involved in implementing several projects in indigenous vegetables. These projects include: Project 1: Improving Food security in sub-Saharan Africa through increased Utilization of Indigenous Vegetables: Studies on seed production and agronomy of major African vegetables (funded by DFID, 1998-2001). The goal of this project was to increase household food security of resource poor groups through a greater use of the natural resource base in Cameroon and Tanzania. The project purpose was to enhance the productive potential of a number of selected African vegetables through a landrace enhancement program, seed production and multiplication; and dissemination of advice on cultivation techniques suitable to small-scale farmers. The project objectives included: assembling germplasm of target species of African indigenous vegetables (AIVs); characterizing and purifying collected germplasm; producing base or breeder seed of selected species of AIVs; developing appropriate production techniques of target species of AIVs and disseminating project outputs to NARES, NGOs and farming communities. The target AIV species were: African nightshade, African eggplant, and Jute mallow for activities in Cameroon and Amaranth, African nightshade, African eggplant and Ethiopian kale for activities in Tanzania. The project was carried out in collaboration with NRI, UK; the University of Dschang, Cameroon; and Horticultural Research Institute (HORTI-Tengeru), Tanzania. Germplasm collection missions were carried out in Cameroon and Tanzania with collaborative NARS. 193 accessions were collected and are being maintained at AVRDC-RCA and at the University of Dschang, Cameroon. Additionally, the collected germplasm were characterized, purified, and the base seed multiplied before being distributed to target farmers. Preliminary descriptor lists for African eggplant, African nightshade, Ethiopian Mustard and spiderflower plant were developed. Project 2. Germplasm Management of Underutilized African Vegetables for Improving Agro-biodiversity, Food Security and Increasing Income of Rural and Urban Poor in Southern Africa (funded by BMZ/GTZ; 2001). The project goal was to reduce malnutrition, increase household food security and income generation of resource poor groups of Southern African countries, through a greater use of African indigenous vegetables. The main objectives were: to assemble germplasm of selected African vegetables; to purify and multiply selected germplasm of AIV s and to produce and distribute to farming communities, self-help groups, NGOs and private sector, seed of selected AIV s. 143 accessions of 14 species from amaranthus, nightshade, African eggplant, ethiopian kale, vegetable cowpea and jute mallow were collected, purified and base seed multiplied. Out of those initial collections, the total number of distinct accessions increased to 186 through further purification and selection process. The most promising 10 accessions in yield and horticultural traits were multiplied, and 184 kg seed produced and distributed to 241 farmers for further use.Project 3. Enhancing production and utilization of African indigenous vegetables through sustainable seed production and distribution for better health, nutrition and small agribusiness in ASARECA member countries (funded by GTZ/BMZ; 2001 - 2003). The target countries were Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The project was carried out in collaboration with Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute in Uganda, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, and Horticultural Research Institute in Tanzania. The project aimed to increased production through improved sustainable production practices; enhance availability of good quality seeds through seed enhancement; develop proper storage techniques and improve seed production systems at farm level; enhance recipe preparation, processing, and preservation of selected AIVs; and increase year round consumption and utilization of AIV s. Under this project, package of practices were developed; 1.2 tons of quality seed of Amaranth, African Eggplant, Nightshade, spiderplant and Ethiopian Mustard were produced and distributed in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; Mechanisms of seed storage at ambient conditions was elucidated; seed production protocols were developed; twelve short term in country courses on recipe preparation, processing, and preservation of selected AIVs were conducted; and seven hundred seed nutrition kits distributed to households for increased year round consumption and utilization of AIV s. Project 4. Germplasm Collection, Evaluation and Improvement of African Leafy Vegetables (funded by USAID; 2002 - 2006). The project is being implemented in collaboration with Ben Gurion University in Israel. The aim of the project is to: collect germplasm; evaluate the collection; carry out survey on indigenous knowledge; and modelling the rate of genetic erosion in Tanzania. So far, 53 accessions of Ethiopian Mustard, 18 accessions of spiderplant and 48 accessions of Nightshade have been collected in Tanzania. 15 accessions of Ethiopian Mustard, 6 accessions of Abukutsa-Onyango et al (2005) Proceedings of the Third Horticulture Workshop on Sustainable Horticultural Production in the Tropics, 26th -29th November 2003. Maseno University, MSU, Maseno, Kenya. 3 spiderplant and 19 accessions of nightshade have been purified while all the accessions are under evaluation. 50 families have been interviewed on their Indigenous knowledge on IV s. The project is ongoing. Project 5. Germplasm Management for the Nutritional and Food Security Needs of Vulnerable Groups In Sub-Saharan Africa (2002 - 2004). This is a partnership project with IPGRI where AVRDC-RCA provides technical support to IPGRI on conservation, capacity building and regional characterization of African leafy vegetables. The project aims to enhance the role of African leafy vegetables in the nutrition of vulnerable groups in sub-Saharan Africa through improved preparation, promotion of consumption, processing, landrace improvement program, and management of their genetic diversity. The AVRDC-RCA technical activities include: holding ex-situ collection of African leafy vegetables; enhancement, characterization, purification, multiplication, evaluation and seed distribution of priority African leafy vegetables; development of on-farm seed production protocols; development of technical guidelines on horticultural practices; capacity building of personnel from partner countries (Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal) on production, characterization and seed production; and preparation of information leaflets on priority species. So far 235 accessions/lines of African indigenous vegetables have been collected from Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Cameroon and are being held at AVRDC-Genetic Resource Services Unit in Taiwan and AVRDC-RCA in Arusha, Tanzania; Purification, characterization and seed multiplication is ongoing for the target accessions; development of on-farm seed production protocols is being carried out for spiderplant, jute mallow and nightshade; and a Regional course on African leafy vegetable characterization and seed production has been carried out at AVRDC-RCA in Arusha, Tanzania with fifteen personnel from target countries trained. Project 6. Promotion of neglected indigenous leafy and legume vegetable crops for nutritional health in Eastern and Southern Africa (funded by BMZ/GTZ, 2003-2006) The project is being carried out in collaboration with IPGRI SSA, Kenya; Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute, Uganda; Horticultural Research Institute, Tanzania; Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station, Malawi; Institute of Agriculture Research, Rwanda; and University of Goettingen, Germany. The project aims to improve household food security of resource-poor groups in Eastern and Southern Africa by; 1) Safe-guarding biodiversity of indigenous vegetables, 2) reducing malnutrition and poverty among small farmers and consumers through promotion, production and consumption of indigenous vegetables and 3) diversifying and stabilizing farmers income and nutritional health through better utilization of indigenous vegetable crops. The activities include: conducting basic and strategic research studies on vegetable legumes; conduct studies on intrinsic nutritional values; collecting base line information on IV s production and consumption pattern and marketing; germplasm collection and evaluation; maintenance of germplasm and seed multiplication; developing production systems; and technology demonstration and transfer. So far, a baseline survey has been completed in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi and the results are being analyzed. Germplasm collection is ongoing in the target countries with concurrent evaluation being carried out; Seed production institutionalization has also been initiated with three seed companies. CONCLUSION The AIV initiatives have resulted in collection of over 700 accessions of IV s but mainly of 15 common indigenous vegetables. The initiatives has resulted in a big systematic work on IVs at AVRDC-RCA which is serving as a base for developing new varieties and to fuel breeding efforts of both AIV s and exotic vegetables. The project outputs are expected to affect the urban and rural poor. With more vegetables on the table, other family members will also benefit from the nutritious food, which would make a major contribution to their health. Other beneficiaries include NARES, private sector and NGOs. AVRDC will link with Regional Research Organizations and networks to help disseminate information and cultivars, resulting from the projects.