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Willem Jansen van Rensburg Wjvrensburg@arc.agric.za
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Dr Abe Shegro Gerrano
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Abueng Moalafi MoalafiA@arc.agric.za
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Lindiwe Khoza Lzulu@arc.agric.za

Indigenous and indigenised edible plants and traditional crops have sustained rural people for centuries. They are native to the places where they are grown (or become part of the culinary culture over time) and are particularly well adapted to the prevailing conditions. In South Africa, these indigenous/traditional vegetables were replaced by modern/western vegetables in the second half of the twentieth century.

Yet, they offer unique opportunities to diversify farming systems, increase income and improve human nutrition and health. Often indigenous and traditional vegetables can be cultivated without requiring expensive external resources, such as irrigation and agrochemicals.​ ​ ​Their nutritional value and the bio-availability of nutrients they contain have not been determined systematically. Nutritionally, indigenous and traditional African vegetables are said to be rich in micronutrients. They contribute micronutrients, as well as increase the bioavailability and absorption of micronutrients from staple foods. Indigenous and traditional vegetables have an important advantage in that rural people who grew up with them like their taste, whereas this is not always the case with exotic vegetables. For example, after giving birth women consume Cleome gynandra, rich in iron and other nutrients. However, indigenous and traditional vegetables sometimes still have a negative connotation to poverty. There are many different species of leafy vegetables used in the Southern Africa region, many of which are fairly localized. The lack of a concerted effort of research and development of these plants, has resulted in the underutilisation of these plants, and, thus, the potential value of these vegetables has not been exploited.

Some of the first research projects on indigenous and traditional vegetables at the ARC-VOP were baseline studies. Baseline studies on the production and utilisation practices of African vegetables were completed in an effort to assist researchers in the identification of possible crops to help address community needs regarding improved nutrition and food security. Further projects aimed to study the cultivation by different ethnic groups, and spread over several climatic zones, to establish production and utilisation patterns.

The following studies have been completed:

Main ethnic group Province Community Methodology Year of study
TshwanaNorth WestTsetse near MafikengQualitative2007/8
ShangaanLimpopoMulati (HSRC main partner)Qualitative2005-2006
ShangaanLimpopoBerlyn (HSRC main partner)Qualitative2005-2006
Tembu-XhosaEastern CapeQunuQualitative2004/5
Pondo (Xhosa)Eastern CapeDimfi (Lusikisiki)Qualitative2004/5
Pondo (Xhosa)Eastern CapeTshonya (Lusikisiki)Qualitative2004/5
Northern SothoLimpopoMars and GlenroyQualitative, quantitative2001-2003
ShangaanMpumalangaArthurstone (Bushbuckridge)Qualitative, quantitative2001-2003
ZuluKwaZulu-NatalWatershed near LadysmithQualitative, quantitative2001-2003


PARTICIPATORY RURAL APPRAISALS

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Amadumbi.jpg

Amadumbi plants can be quite large, even bigger than an average women

Amadumbi2.png The flower of an amadumbe plant

The ARC was involved in various breeding initiatives to create diversity in the indigenous vegetable germplasm. The first step for the breeding program is to determine the genetic diversity of the germplasm, using agro-morphological descriptors and molecular markers. The species currently used in the breeding program are amaranth (thepe or imbuya), spider flower (lerotho or bangala), cowpea (dinawa) and jute (delele or gyxe).  The ARC-VOP is also involved in a project that aims at facilitating the establishment of a commercial scale seed production unit to produce indigenous vegetable seed for a potential growing indigenous vegetable market.

Amadumbi3.jpgAmadumbe is a traditional crop cultivated by rural farmers for many decades and the only traditional tuberous crop included in the research agenda of the ARC-VOP. Amadumbe is the local name for Colocasia esculenta, better known as taro or cocoyam. It is mostly produced in the warmer, humid subtropical and eastern coastal regions in home gardens, and recently on a more commercial scale. Both the corms and leaves of the amadumbe plants are used. The corms are more popular and are used as a starchy staple in certain areas. The leaves are used in certain areas as a leafy vegetable, and in Makatini the rather fleshy petiole base is fried with onions.

The level of production of amadumbe in South Africa is not known because it is mainly produced by local people as a subsistence crop with limited marketing. However, recently some amadumbe is being sold in fresh produce markets and major retailers like Woolworths, Checkers and Pick-a-Pay.


PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

  • Peer Reviewed Articles

ADEBOLA P.O. & AFOLAYAN A.J., 2010. Effect of cooking on the mineral contents and anti-nutritional factors in seven accessions of Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott growing in South Africa. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 23: 5.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VAN AVERBEKE W., SLABBERT R., FABER M., VAN JAARSVELD P., VAN HEERDEN S.M., WENHOLD F. & OELOFSE A., 2007. African leafy vegetables in South Africa. Water SA 33: 317-326.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VENTER S.L., NETSHILUVHI T.R., VAN DEN HEEVER E., VORSTER H.J. & DE RONDE J.A., 2004.  The Role of Indigenous Leafy Vegetables In Combating Hunger And Malnutrition. SA Journal of Botany 70:1: 52-59.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VORSTER H.J., VAN ZIJL J.J.B., VENTER S.L. & VAN DEN HEEVER E., 2007. Conservation African Leafy Vegetables in South Africa. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 7 no 4: 13.

KRITZINGER E.M., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG R., WOODWARD B., RONG I.H., SPREETH M.H. & VENTER S.L., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VORSTER H.J., VAN DEN HEEVER E. & VAN ZIJL J.J.B., 2007. Promotion of African Leafy Vegetables within the Agricultural Research Council. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 7 No.: 0.

LEWU M.N., ADEBOLA P.O. & AFOLAYAN A.J., 2009. Effect of cooking on the proximate composition of the leaves of some accessions of Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. . African Journal of Biotechnology 8 (8): 1619-1622. .

LOONAT T.A., VAN DEN HEEVER E. & HAMMES P., 2003. Effect of Temperature on the Germination of Grain Amaranth. SA Journal of Plant and Soil 20(3): 152:153.

VAN DEN HEEVER E. & SLABBERT M.M., 2007. Proceedings of the 1st International conference on indigenous vegetables and legumes prospectus for fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Acta Horticulturae 752: 281.

VAN DEN HEEVER E. & VENTER S.L., 2007. Evaluation of Amaranthus sp as a dual purpose crop, using the leaves and grain in SA. Acta Horticulturae 752: 339.

VAN DEN HEEVER E. & VENTER S.L., 2007. Nutritional and medicinal properties of Cleome gynandra. Acta Horticulturae 752: 127.

VAN DEN HEEVER E. & VENTER S.L., 2007. Prospectus for fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition evaluation of Amaranthus sp. as a dual purpose, using the leaves and grain in SA. Acta Horticulturae 752: 339.

VENTER S.L., VAN DEN HEEVER E., ALLEMANN J. & VILJOEN J.C., 2000. Potential vegetable and medicinal uses of traditional crops in S.A.. Acta Horticulturae 523: 25 - 28.

VORSTER H.J. & JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., 2004. A tale of two villages and 'phara' - lost and found.  IPGRI Bulletin. December.

VORSTER H.J., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S. & VENTER S.L., 2007. Re-creating awareness of traditional leafy vegetables in communities. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 7: 0.

VORSTER H.J., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., STEVENS J.B. & STEYN G.J., 2009. The role of traditional leafy vegetables in the food security of rural households in South Africa. Acta Horticulturae 806: 223-228.

VORSTER H.J., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VENTER S.L. & VAN ZIJL J.J.B., 2007. The importance of traditional leafy vegetables in South Africa. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 7: 0.

VORSTER H.J., STEVENS J.J.B. & STEYN G.J., 2008. Production systems of traditional leafy vegetables: Challenges for research and extension. South African Journal of Agricultural Extension 37: 85-96.

WENHOLD F.A.M., FABER M., VAN AVERBEKE W., OELOFSE A., VAN JAARSVELD P., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VAN HEERDEN S.M.  & SLABBERT R., 2007. Linking smallholder agriculture and water to household food security. Water SA 33: 327-336.

  • Chapters in other publications

HART T.G.B. & VORSTER H.J., 2006. Indigenous Knowledge on the South African Landscape: Potentials for Agricultural Development. In: HSRC: Occasional Paper 1.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S. & VORSTER H.J., 2008. African Leaf Vegetables. In: Underutilized and Underexploited Crops.

PASQUINI M.W., ASSOGBA-KOMLAN F., VORSTER H.J., SHACKLETON C.M. & ABUKUTSA-ONYANGO M.O., 2009. The production of african indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban agriculture: A comparative analysis of case studies from Benin, Kenya and South Africa. In: African Indigenous vegetables in Urban Agriculture.

VAN DEN HEEVER E. & VENTER S.L., 2008. Amaranths. In: K.V Peters.

VENTER S.L., JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S., VAN DEN HEEVER E., VORSTER H.J. & ALLEMANN J., 2007. Indigenous Crops with potential but under-utilized in South Africa. In: Breeding of Neglected and Under-Utilized Crops, Spices and Herbs.

  • Books

SPREETH M.H., SLABBERT M.M., DE RONDE J.A., VAN DEN HEEVER E. & NDOU A., 2004. Screening of cowpea, bambara groundnut and amaranth germplasm for drought tolerance and testing of the selected plant material in participation with targeted communities. Water Research Commissions.

  • Popular Publication

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S. & VORSTER H.J., Don't underestimate morogo. Farming SA. 1/11/2008. 15: 8-10.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S. & VORSTER H.J., Traditional leafy vegetables: Weed or a valuable nutritional resource. SA Vegetables & Fruit. 30/8/2005.

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG W.S. & VORSTER H.J., Traditional Leafy Vegetables: An Answer to food Insecurity?. Nufarmer and African Entrepreneur. 15/12/2007. 12: 10.

ALLEMANN J., VENTER S.L., VAN DEN HEEVER E. & MATLALA R., Traditional crops that can cure. Farmer's Weekly. 28/2/1997. 1: 24-26. (English).

PRINSLOO G., VAN DEN HEEVER E. & MOFOKENG M.M., Indigenous plant use forum. Landscape SA. 1/9/2007. (English).

  • Thesis

VORSTER H.J., 2008. The role and production of traditional leafy vegetables in three rural communities in South Africa.