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African Crop Science Conference Proceedings, Vol. 7. pp. 1201-1204Printed in Uganda. All rights reservedISSN 1023-070X/2005 $ 4.00 2005, African Crop Science Society Conservation and seed production of African leafy vegetables at Maseno
University botanic garden, Kenya
M.O. ABUKUTSA ONYANGO & J.C. ONYANGO Department of Botany and Horticulture, Maseno University, Private bag – 40105, MASENO. Kenya Abstract African leafy vegetables (ALVs) have been grown for centuries on the African continent. Although neglected they have
many advantages that include, nutritional and medicinal value, agronomic advantages and potential as income generation Despite
these advantages they have been neglected and are threatened by extinction. This calls for in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies
for these species. The objective of the study was to: identify and Collect germplasm of the priority African leafy vegetables in the
Lake Victoria region, propagate, multiply the collected germplasm of the Priority African leafy vegetables and set up seed support
systems for the priority African leafy vegetables . Household and market surveys and germplasm collection were undertaken in
Western Kenya. Seed propagation, bulking, processing, packaging and distribution was also done The priority African leafy veg-
etables in Western Kenya were cowpeas, leaf amaranths, African nightshades, Jute mallow, spiderplant, slenderleaf, African kale and
pumpkin leaves. Propagation, seed multiplication, processing and distribution of the priority vegetables was undertaken. Seed
support system was set up at Maseno University Botanic garden and research on priority ALVs is being undertaken
Key words: African leafy vegetables, in-situ, ex-situ conservation Résumé Les légumes africains feuillus (ALVs) ont été cultivés depuis des siècles sur le continent africain. Bien que négligés, ils
présentent plusieurs avantages notamment ; des avantages agronomiques et leur potentiel de générateurs de revenus. Malgré ces
avantages, ils ont été négligés et sont menacés d’extinction. Ceci en appelle à des stratégies de conservation in-situ et ex-situ pour ces
espèces. L’objectif de l’étude était d’examiner et de prélever le germoplasme de ALVs prioritaires et de mettre sur pied un système
de maintenance de semence pour les ALVs. L’évaluation de marché et au niveau familial ainsi que le prélèvement de germoplasme
étaient effectués dans l’Ouest du Kenya. La propagation de semences, l’intensification, le traitement, l’emballage et la distribution,
étaient également faits. Les ALVs prioritaires dans la région étaient le niébé, feuilles d’amarantes, nightshades africain, jute mallow,
spiderplant, slenderleaf, african kale et feuilles de courge. La propagation, la multiplication de semences, le traitement et la distribu-
tion des ces légumes prioritaires étaient entreprises. Le système de maintenance de semences était mis en place Jardin Botanique de
l’Université de Maseno et la recherche sur les ALVs prioritaires est en cours.
Mots clés: Légumes africains feuillus, conservation in-situ, ex-situ Introduction
possess several agronomic advantages, unlike the exoticvegetables, they can produce seed under tropical African leafy vegetables (ALVs) are vegetables indigenous conditions, they have a short growth period and can to Africa whose leaves, shoots and flowers are consumed withstand both abiotic and biotic stresses (Abukutsa- (Schippers, 2000) and have for a long time been described Onyango et al , 2005, Mwai et al 2005). The other by early writers, researchers and Scholars as weeds (FAO, advantage is their potential for income generation and 1988). In Kenya and other parts of East Africa these for self employment more over they are well suited to vegetables have been used by both rural and urban environment friendly farming systems like intercropping communities (Chweya and Eyzaguire, 1999) and include and organic farming (Chweya and Eyzaguire, 1999).
several botanic families like amaranthaceae, bacellaceae, Today some members of Solanaceae family have been brassicacea, capparaceae, cucurbitaceae and tiliaceae to recognised for their high levels of secondary plant mention but a few (Schippers, 2000) Although these metabolites especially the alkaloids. Currently research vegetables have been neglected for a long time, their value is being conducted on the characterization of these and importance cannot be overemphasized. Most of the alkaloids for different purposes. During high precipitation African leafy vegetables have several advantages that seasons when leafy vegetables are plentiful, some include high nutritive value particularly the micronutrients communities preserve them by drying for use in times of and to some extent the proteins (Chweya, 1997). A 100g of scarcity. In this way the preserved vegetables contribute most of fresh leaves contains over 100% of the to house hold food security and are more easily marketed recommended daily requirement for an adult for calcium, as a technology to the communities (Chweya and iron, vitamin A and C, and 40% for the proteins (Chweya, 1997). According to Olembo et al. (1995) most of these Despite these advantages ALVs have been neglected vegetables have been reported to have medicinal properties by researchers, educators, policy makers, trainers and especially the bitter tasting ones. African leafy vegetables agriculturalists and this has led to extinction of some species or reduction in biodiversity and lose of the sampled) were done in 2002 to determine the priority indigenous knowledge. Another major hindrance in the vegetables and to collect germplasm. In 2003 germplasm production of African leafy vegetables was lack of quality propagation, seed multiplication and processing commenced. In 2004 and 2005 seed production and supply This therefore calls for a strategy of both in-situ and of the priority vegetables was undertaken and research ex-situ conservation strategies. The strategy of in-situ on nitrogen rates, intercropping and seed storage studies conservation of traditional vegetables is to prevent their conducted. The vegetables research at Maseno Botanic falling into disuse because of economic demographic and Garden have been guided by close collaboration with the cultural factors. Hence our conservation through use farmers in the university catchments area and in this approach is to work with the farmers within the existing endeavour the Botanic garden’s research has undertaken production and consumption systems to maintain local effective task of producing clean seeds of the priority knowledge about their diversity and uses, to document ALVs to the farmers. Some work at Maseno university the genetic diversity of key priority species, and to Botanic Garden is based on the potential use of this family demonstrate the potential for improvement and their for medicinal purposes among other plants. There are also competitiveness against other exotic vegetables species investigations on the nutritive values and ways of reducing the bitter tastes of some solanum cultivars. Recently On the other hand the ex-situ conservation is the another study has been carried out on the inter-cropping conservation outside their natural environment in of Solanum scabrum with tea seedlings as a means of biodiversity centres for research, teaching, pleasure providing soil cover and food to small scale tea farmers in propagation and seed production of indigenous and endangered plants. Such diversity centers include botanicgardens.
Results and discussions
Both strategies are outlined in Rio and Durban biodiversity conventions of sustainable utilization of The priority vegetables identified in the Lake Victoria region are shown in Table 1. Cowpeas was the most The objectives of this study were to, identify and popular vegetables in terms of growing, consumption and collect germplasm of the priority African leafy vegetables trade, this agrees with the report of Chweya and Eyzaguire, in the Lake VIictoria Region; propagate, multiply the (1999) , the possible explanation is that cowpea leaves collected germplasm of the priority African leafy have a relatively longer shelf life than the other ALVs and vegetables; set up seed support systems for the priority can withstand both water and nutrient deficiencies. The other priority ALVs included leaf amaranths, Africannightshades, jute mallow, spiderplant, slenderleaf, African Materials and methods
The Priority African leafy vegetable quality seed First University Botanic garden was established in 2001 production and packaging have been effected and yields as biodiversity centre for the Lake Victoria region.
are indicated in Table 2. These seeds have been packaged Household survey were conducted in Siaya, Kisumu, in 100g and 50 g packets and distributed .A total of 77 Bondo, Vihiga, Butere-Mumias, Kisii, Nyamira and Busia farmers in 8 districts were provided with seed and technical Districts in Western Kenya where 50 households per information on the production and seed processing of the district were purposively sampled in 2002 . A market ALVs. The highest coverage of farmers and/or groups survey was carried out in Kakamega Municipal Market was in Vihiga district with 24 farmers reached and lowest (100 traders systematically sampled were interviewed) and of three was in Bondo as shown in table 3 below. The two rural markets (30 traders per market purposively table also shows the follow up of 9 farmers representing Table 1. Priority African leafy vegetables in the Lake Victoria region.
Seed production of African leafy vegetables only 12% of the total number of contact farmers. The results It is therefore imperative that the indigenous knowledge showed that 70% of these farmers were female and that all bestowed on the communities by their cultural practices the 9 farmers were able to produce their own seed.
should be given due consideration as new technologies The field observations on the growth of these vegetables showed that they reach harvestable stagewithin three to four weeks after planting depending on Conclusion
the cultural practices used. The vegetables can beharvested for up to three months giving a total cumulative The priority African leafy vegetables in Western Kenya harvestable leaf of 6 to 10 tons per hectare. In economic were cowpeas, leaf amaranths, African nightshades, Jute terms this production level is high enough to meet the mallow, spiderplant, slenderleaf,African kale and pumpkin intensive labour input and raise the rural family’s economic leaves, Propagation, seed multiplication, processing and status especially in respect to food security (Onyango distribution of the priority vegetables was undertaken.
and Onyango,2002). Demand for these African leafy Seed support system was set up at Maseno University vegetables is high and the production inputs are low Botanic garden and research on priority ALVs is being although with high labour input, they can therefore be categorised as an alternative technology towards Our experience has proved that most farmers in alleviation of poverty in rural parts of Western Kenya.
Western Kenya are very responsive to new technologies However, the journey to poverty reduction and food especially if they can be seen to be working. The benefits security will be long in the Lake Victoria region, since it of ALVs to rural households have been recognised and needs changes in practice and perception from policy internalized in this region. What remains is commitment makers, extension workers and researchers. What is needed by researchers and availability of research funds to now is not the workshops for campaigns on the benefits develop appropriate technologies for the vegetables and importance of technologies but the actual provision production, especially those that can reduce the labour of clean seeds and hands-on-work geared towards requirements at production level. This should be taken production. In most cases researchers and extension simultaneously with introduction of ALVs production workers spend a lot of time and resources trying to educate courses at tertiary education institutions. Maseno the populace with inherent indigenous knowledge about University is already having these programmes at all levels their heritage. At times this results in conflict of innovation of its higher education. The university Botanic garden and understanding at the detriment of technology transfer.
will continue on its role as repository centre for the ex situplant conservation. However, this will be based on theprinciples of conservation for sustainable utilization as Table 2. Seed yields of seven African leafy vegetables short rains (2003).
opposed to the protection of germplasms. Sustainabilitywill be achieved through usage of clean seeds from the garden by farmers to produce the vegetables in their backyard gardens or large plantations for commercial purposes.
This is already the case with some farmers in Yala division and Kisii district production areas.
We are grateful to Biota- E12 and IPGRI for financial support, Maseno University, Botanic garden staff for technical assistance especially Patrick Omulubi and PeterOlewe.
Table 3. Seed distribution from the garden and outreach on African leafyvegetables (50g of seed).
Abukutsa-Onyango, M.O., Mwai, G.N. & Onyango, J.C.
2005. Studies on horticultural practices of some African District No. of farmers given No. of farmers Indigenous Vegetables at Maseno University. In: Abukutsa-Onyango. M.O., A.N. Muriithi, K.Ngamau,V.Anjichi, S.G. Agong, A. Fricke, B.Hau and H Stützel.
2005. Proceedings of the Third Horticulture Workshop on Sustainable Horticultural Production in the Tropics, 26th -29th November 2003. Maseno University, MSU, Chweya, J.A. 1997. Genetic enhancement of indigenous vegetables in Kenya. In: Traditional AfricanVegetables.
Promoting the conservation and use of underutilizedand neglected crops. 16. Guarino, L. editor. Proceedings of the IPGRI International workshop on genetic Resources of Traditional Vegetables in Africa: Olembo, N.K., Fedha, S.S. & Ngaira, E.S. 1995. Medicinal Conservation and Use, 29-31 August 1995, ICRAF- and Agricultural Plants of Ikolomani, Kakamega HQ, Nairobi, Kenya. Institute of Plant. Genetic and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben/International Plant Onyango, M.O.A., Onyango, J.C., Bashir, J., Niang’, A. & Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.
Obiero, H.M. 1999. Response of some traditional Chweya, J.A. & Eyzaguire, P.B. 1999. The biodiversity of vegetables in Western Kenya to organic and inorganic traditional leafy vegetables. International Plant Genetic fertilizer application. Institute of Research and Postgraduate Studies Seminars, Maseno University FAO,1988, Traditional food crops. FAO, Food and College, Reprint Series 3, 1-13.
Nutrition Paper 42. Food and Agriculture Organization Onyango, M.O.A. & Onyango, J.C. 2002. Influence of organic and inorganic sources of fertilizer on Growth Martin, G.J. 1995. Ethnobotany: A methods manual.
and leaf yield of kale (Brassica oleraceae var.acephala D.C.). Journal for Agriculture, Science and Technology.
Mwai, G.N., Onyango, J.C. & Abukutsa Onyango, M.O.
4(1), 38-51.
2005. Potential salinity resistance in spiderplant Schippers, R.R. 2000. African indigenous vegetables an (Cleome gynandra L.). African Journal of Food, overview of the cultivated species. Chatham, UK.
Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) Natural Resources Institute /ACP-EU Technical Centre .Online journal. www.ajfand.net 4:2 . ISSN 1684-5378 for Agricultural and rural Cooperation.

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