GUDRUN B. KELLER1, HASSAN MNDIGA2, BRIGITTE L. MAASS1
1Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute for Crop and Animal Production in the Tropics, Germany
2World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC - Arp), Tanzania
Traditional vegetables, though not necessarily indigenous to a country, can be associated with traditional production systems, local knowledge of farmers, and usually, have a long history of local usage and selection. Traditional vegetables are widely underutilised and neglected in research and development. In the frame of the project "Promotion of Neglected Indigenous Vegetable Crops for Nutritional Health in Eastern and Southern Africa" led by the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC) and partners, a study was performed in order to verify the potential of traditional vegetables that might help to fight malnutrition in Tanzania and to diversify income for resource-poor farmers under low-input conditions.
For this study, focus group meetings were conducted in 10-12 villages of four different districts in north-east Tanzania to gather basic information on available traditional vegetables and to explore farmers' knowledge on production and consumption taking gender into consideration. The four districts differed highly in ethnicity as well as in climate, altitude, and soil conditions.
Farmers named 10-34 different traditional vegetables per village, summing up to an overall of 102 in all four districts. While 56 of these vegetables could be identified, 46 of them were only known by their local names. Only 12 traditional vegetables were present in all four districts. The number of wild traditional vegetables used was always greater than that of cultivated ones, with a ratio wild:cultivated ranging from 11:9 in an urban highland district to 59:11 in a rural coastal district. However, wild vegetables were threatened with genetic erosion due to change in land use and eating habits. Despite their recognised importance, existing taboos, for example in one district, did not allow men to eat green leafy vegetables. Preservation of traditional vegetables was non-satisfying since leaves were usually dried in the direct sun-light, whereby especially vitamin C is being lost.
As a consequence of this study, it is suggested i.a. to launch an educational programme especially on sparing preparation and processing methods as well as to increase awareness of wild traditional vegetables, the conservation of their habitats, and the possibility to save these genetic resources through enhanced utilisation.
Keywords: Genetic diversity, indigenous knowledge, Tanzania, traditional vegetables, wild vegetables