Promoting neglected indigenous vegetable crops for nutrition and health: An African success story

Many problems are raised in the ongoing regional virtual discussions such as malnutrition, insufficient improved seed production and distribution systems, lack of effective partnerships, the need for low-input technologies, as well as the lack of attention to alternatives like organic farming, underutilized and native crops, to mention only a few of the many issues that have been highlighted.

While we are confronted with this huge number of difficulties in AR4D it is good to read a success story like the one shared by Gabriel Ddamulira. Gabriel is an agronomist who currently undertakes a PhD in plant breeding and biotechnology at Makerere University in Uganda. She works for National Agricultural Research Organization, and is based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, in Namulonge.

Here is her experience:

“My area of specialty is crop Agronomy and Breeding with a bias in horticultural crops. I have been involved in vegetable and fruit research, under the National Horticulture Program of National Crops Resources Research Institute. Currently, I am working on the promotion of neglected indigenous vegetable crops for nutrition and health. This is a regional project encompassing Eastern and Southern Africa and coordinated by the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC). The main focus of the project is to evaluate breeders’ seed for multiplication and distribution to farmers, develop improved cultivation practices, determine the nutrition related aspects and develop production and utilization technologies that can promote sustainable use of indigenous vegetables.

Nutrition and health is a big challenge due to decline in production of indigenous vegetables in East Africa. In order to mitigate this problem there is a need to promote the production of neglected indigenous vegetable to improve on the nutrition especially among the poor communities. Therefore we aimed at counteracting the vegetable production constraints such as lack of quality seed, poor cultivation practices and limited factual information on the nutrient value of some of the local vegetables.

An innovation with impact

  • We realized acceptable improved cultivation practices that can enhance vegetable production because farmers were involved in the selection of these practices.
  • We have created a link between farmers and research institutes because farmers have been involved in the activities of the research institute
  • Increased farmers’ participation in research was possible because farmers were informed about the activities and benefits of project and the project promoted a crop for which farmers were interested in.
  • We strengthened networks and improved partnership amongst researchers, donors and research institutions due to good cooperation among collaborators.

However, multiplication of breeder seed is still hindered by the much preference of the seed companies to promote exotic vegetables rather than the indigenous ones.

Success Factor Partnerships

The partnership in this innovation include:  AVRDC, Seed companies, National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES), farmers and AVRDC-Regional Centres for Africa (RCA)

The partnership between NARES & AVRDC-RCA has been successful because, partners had a common interest of promoting indigenous vegetables. Roles for each partner were stipulated and partners executed them in a timely manner.

However, the partnership between NARES and seed companies has been bottlenecked by mismatch of interests where seed companies are not willing to multiple indigenous vegetable seeds because they attract low sales as compared to exotic vegetable seeds

The partnership between NARES and farmers has so far worked well because farmers are interested in promoting local vegetables because of their taste and adaptability in many ecological zones.

Similar innovations are being carried out in Rwanda , Tanzania , Malawi and Burundi under the same project.  However, their impacts cannot be quantified as per now because the project activities are still on going.”

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