Traditional vegetables now major food in urban East Africa

17:15, July 13, 2010      

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What started as a weekend shopping spree has with time become a daily occurrence as many people flood markets in search of their popular traditional vegetables in major markets in East Africa.

In the main markets like Owino and Kikomba markets in Uganda and Kenya respectively, shoppers are seen parking their cars as those without vehicles also walk along the narrow pathways to be able to choose the best leafy vegetables of their choice.

The demand is the same in Tanzania bigger towns and smaller towns as well smaller towns in Uganda and Kenya.

According to the traders, the number of their clients has increased in the past few years hence helping sustain the business that was once unthinkable to operate in major urban centers as traditional vegetables were regarded as a village reserve.

John Kebati who transports vegetables to Nairobi from Nyamira in the Kisii highlands in western Kenya attributes the high demand of traditional vegetables in Nairobi to popularity of fresh vegetables that are grown under natural environment unlike the ones grown in urban farms. "I started off my business in a small way but it has since improved so fast as the businessmen whom I supply in Nairobi has increased in numbers," he says.

Kebati says that due to high demand of the vegetables in Nairobi, she has contracted small scale farmers from his home area where he gets the produce as away of surviving in the business that has of late attracted stiff competition from traders from other parts of the country.

The scenario is however not different from what goes on in Uganda where the populous Owino market, Nakawa and Nakasero markets in the outskirts of Kampala city are crowded by people buying the traditional vegetables.

According to a resident of Kampala Pius Ogwang, those trading in traditional vegetables are doing roaring business as they often have their day's stock completed by 11 a.m. in the morning unlike the exotic breeds like kale and cabbages. "Seeing people scramble for them at times makes those who have a different attitude about them also resort to eating them as many urbanites have in many years liken those consuming them to be backward," Ogwang adds.

But according to scientists, this is great news as people have resorted to benefiting from the rich natural resources that are abundant in the region. "The people have realized the importance of the vegetables as opposed to previous beliefs that those consuming it were primitive, " a Senior Research Officer with the Uganda National Forestry Resources Research Institute Dr. David Hafashimana observes.
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