Traditional vegetables now major food in urban East Africa (2)

17:18, July 13, 2010      

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Hafashimana says that markets and restaurants in Kampala and other major towns in Uganda are doing roaring business following a sudden attitude change towards the vegetables.

He adds that as a result restaurants that specialize in cooking traditional vegetables have sprung up and are making good business as is evidenced by long queue of people entering the dining halls. "The fact that our grandfathers consistently ate the traditional vegetables and rarely became ill is an indication that the vegetables are not outdated as most people think but medicinal," Hafashimana adds.

An Ethnobotanist at Bioversity International Patrick Maundu notes that even though preference for exotic vegetables like cabbage, Swiss chard and kale still exists, high prevalence of minerals and vitamins in traditional vegetables is attracting consumers.

Maundu confirms that the vegetables have high prevalence of micronutrients that is capable of protecting people from contracting anaemia and blindness as well as helping in protecting 42.2 percent of children in sub Sahara Africa from risk of vitamin A deficiency.

He says that traditional vegetables, unlike the exotic cousins have more options to cope with climate change, pests, water stress and diseases. "Besides other values derived from consuming the vegetables, they are also a major source of income for people who grow it in plenty," he adds.

Maundu says that the vegetables have the potential for value addition and also extraction of oil from the seeds.

He suggested that the vegetables like pumpkin leaves, cowpea leaves, okra fruits, bean leaves, corchorus leaves, cassava leaves, moringa and desert date should be dried and sold in powder form or in chopped form.

Since the vegetables have the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation in Africa they still require additional research to determine the levels of toxicity in some species. "The vegetables have been grown and utilized traditionally by many African communities and posses several advantages and potentials that have not been fully exploited, says Prof. Mary Abukutsa Onyango, a lecturer at the department of horticulture at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

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