Traditional vegetables now major food in urban East Africa (3)

17:18, July 13, 2010      

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She observes that the vegetables have high nutritional value adding that the consumption of 100 grammes provides over 100 percent of daily allowance for vitamins and minerals and 40 percent proteins.

Abukutsa – Onyango reveals that the bitter types of vegetables have medicinal properties that have known to heal stomach related ailments.

She says that due to neglect that has led to lack of quality seeds and appropriate production technologies, the vegetables are not sustainable produced hence leading to low production and poor distribution.

"Quality seed is paramount to successful vegetable production programmes and promotional strategies," says the lecturer who is currently spearheading promotion of the vegetables in over 10 districts in Kenya.

The university has set up a seed quality support system and is in the process of reaching out to more farmers.

Even though the vegetables are regaining popularity, more efforts are still needed in germplasm collection, genetic studies and improvement, indigenous knowledge documentation and agronomic studies.

The abrupt demand is forcing Kenya's renowned hotel industry training institution Utalii College to review its course programmes to incorporate African Traditional Vegetables.

The institution is styling up so as not to be left behind following proof that traditional menu are in high demand in the cities forcing many hotels to offer them due to their popularity amongst locals and foreigners. "We intend to empower cooks to learn how to cook the vegetables so that they become attractive to foreigners who visit the region to enjoy its natural products," a lecturer in food production Reuben Nzuvu reveals.

He notes that the college, in close collaboration with the hospitality industry and other stakeholders, has continually reviewed its training programmes and operations in response to the market demands.

Nzuvu says that the move will also empower local farmers to grow more traditional vegetables in helping to support the nutritional value and lifestyle of the people.

He observes that once the curriculum is adjusted, most hotels in the country and the region will offer the vegetables in their menu as opposed to serving tourists western foods.

He further reveals that in addition to the full time courses, the college conducts In-service courses for hospitality industry employees.

Nzuvu says that as an internationally recognized centre of academic excellence, the college has for a long time been the main source of trained manpower for the tourism industry in the East and central Africa.

A Senior Nutrition Officer at Kenyatta National Hospital Eunice Mutemi says that indigenous vegetables have plenty of vitamins and minerals that also go along way in treating some diseases. "Indigenous vegetables have better nutrients and high level of minerals compared to exotic ones," she adds.

Mutemi reveals that most hospitals in the country are fast improving their daily diets by including indigenous vegetables due to the high demand by patients.

She urges Kenyans to resort to eating traditional foods as opposed to over depending on exotic foods.

Mutemi notes that most foods that are neglected by the people have been found to be effective in controlling breast; prostrate, lung, skin and colon cancers yet locals have developed a negative attitude towards them. "East Africans must learn to promote their own foods like the Ethiopians who have restaurants in United States of America and other parts of Europe by first liking their foods then attracting people from other regions to like them," she adds.

Source: Xinhua
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