Contact: Ms. E. van den Heever, +27 (0)12 808 8000
ARC-Roodeplaat is involved in technology transfer to commercial
as well as resource poor farmers. This includes a diagnostic centre where
farmers can be assisted on the identification and control of vegetable pests and
diseases in order to limit the risks on vegetable production and to increase
yield and quality. Several courses, including basic vegetable production and
hydroponic production of vegetables are presented to farmers on a regular basis.
Through these courses the ARC tend to train farmers on the best production
systems as well as economic viability of vegetable production. These courses
play an important role to increase the impact of ARC research outputs on the
competitiveness and economic viability of vegetable production and to establish
the ARC as a leading institution in agricultural research and development.
E. van den Heever (Senior Researcher) | T. Tselapedi (Public
Relations Officer: ARC-Roodeplaat) | S. Laurie (Senior Researcher)
M. Maboko (Researcher) | S. Chiloane (Senior Research Technician) | N. Mamadi (Research Technician) | M Mofokeng (Senior Research Technician)
S Tjale (Senior Research Technician) | M Mtileni (Senior Research Technician)
The facilities at the incubator are of a high standard and are utilized for research as well as training on most vegetable crops in several hydroponic production systems. The research programme includes basic and applied research in order to develop new technology and methodology aimed at optimization of cultivation practices for hydroponic farming. Different crops, systems and structures are evaluated to determine the economic viability and to improve the utilization of CASP funded infrastructure by selected farmers. The Incubator can play an important role in training and assistance of farmers in communities with a collective/corporate hydroponic venture in order to improve food security and counteract high food prices.
The overall objective of the ARC “Improved Nutrition Program”, in partnership with the MRC, is to address food security and malnutrition in South Africa through research on a crop-based approach. The aim of the program is to produce nutrient-rich food through food gardens at community level. The Ndunakazi project had a favorable effect on serum retinol concentrations and habitual intake of yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables of 2-5-y-old children, as well as maternal knowledge regarding vitamin A nutrition. A similar approach in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape showed lower levels of reported illnesses for children aged 1-5 years, better knowledge of nutritional aspects and higher intake of ß-carotene-rich vegetables than non-participating households. Crops employed in these projects were orange-fleshed sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas L. (Lam.) and also carrot, spinach (swiss chard) and butternut. These crops are all rich in ß-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A by the human body. This crop-based model has great potential in combating high food prices and reducing vitamin A deficiency in rural communities.
Medicinal Plant Production and Agro-processing
Traditional African vegetables have been an important source of food for decades, providing essential nutrients and vitamins to many poor and rural families. However, the promotion of few exotic vegetables resulted in the abandonment and neglect of the indigenous vegetables. In South Africa today, Vitamin A deficiency is a major challenge, especially in rural areas. A study conducted in 1995 showed that one in every three preschool children showed marginal symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. African vegetables, especially the dark leafy vegetables, can play an important role in alleviating malnutrition in poor communities in South Africa and the rest of Africa, as these crops are very nutritious. Most African vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and carbohydrates. Amaranthus has been reported to have 13, 9, and 57 times more iron, calcium, and vitamin A precursor, respectively, than cabbage.African leafy vegetables have unique advantages when compared to their exotic counter parts. They are adapted to the local conditions, grow quickly, resistant to most local pests and disease, can grow well in poor and low fertile soils. These vegetables are easier to grow, for example, instead of formal planting like cabbage, Amaranthus (Vowa or Thepe) seed can be broadcasted into the field, or the crop can be harvested from the wild where it grow voluntarily as weeds. Furthermore, very little agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and water and farming skills are required when growing these vegetables.
Therefore, resource poor farmers and home owners can easily grow these vegetables both for home consumption and for commercial purposes. The low input requirement of these vegetables makes them suitable candidates for organic production. It may be much easier to produce Amaranthus with no commercial fertilizer or pesticides compared to producing spinach or cabbage.
This project on the commercial production of African leafy vegetables is funded by the Lottery Grant. The project was introduced to the Mukondeni community with all the conditions clarified in order to align their expectations with the project plan. Interested community members joined the project. A working relationship was established between ARC-Roodeplaat and the Mukondeni tribal authority and the community, as well as the stakeholders. A key contact person was identified in the community to liaise with ARC-Roodeplaat project leaders. A feasibility study on the possibility to commercialize a number of traditional crops is completed and several of these crops seem to be feasible for commercial production by the beneficiaries. Project visits and meetings take place at least once every two months in order to facilitate the establishment of infrastructure before production can commence.
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