Native plants to improve food security and nutritional intake

Photo credit: Africa Research Online

Africa – ‘Indigenous’ Crops and Food Security

Research suggests that the potential contribution of native crops to African food security could be huge.

The answer to problems of food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa are often seen, by organisations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and international agribusiness companies, as lying with new highly developed crop varieties. However an article published by Nature explores a different avenue which looks at the abundance of ‘indigenous’ crops grown across the country, often overlooked by seed companies and researchers as lagging behind in terms of productivity and quality

The article explains how in some urban areas such as Nairobi these food crops are now becoming more popular; Kenyan farmers increased the area used to grow such crops by 25% between 2011 and 2013, and they are increasingly available in markets.

Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a horticultural researcher at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya said that “in Africa, malnutrition is such a problem. We want to see indigenous vegetables play a role”; Abukutsa began surveying and collecting Kenya’s indigenous plants in the early 1990s.

It is hoped that more emphasis on indigenous foods, those that are well adapted for a particular climate and environment, rather than foreign plants that often are less nutritious and take large external inputs to be successfully grown, can contribute to some degree towards food security and improved nutrition in Africa.

Read the full article: Africa Research Online

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: