Sustainable production for more resilient food production systems: Case study of African indigenous vegetables in eastern Africa

S. C. Weller, E. Van Wyk, J. E. Simon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


African indigenous vegetables are an important crop for providing nutrition, improved health and income security to African populations. Often considered as underutilized crops, these indigenous and naturalized fruits and vegetables generally harvested from wild populations are easy to grow, often require lower inputs than the European and 'western' vegetables, are more adapted to local conditions and environmental stress, and could provide local opportunities for income generation and improving health and nutrition. This paper focuses on the incorporation of African indigenous vegetables as additional crop enterprises to their traditional agronomic ones to provide more resilient food production systems for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. This work highlights only a few such indigenous vegetables including amaranth (Amaranthus spp.), African nightshade (Solanum scabrum, S. villosum) and spiderplant (Cleome gynandra) while others including African kale (Brassica carinata), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) leaves and African eggplant (S. aethiopicum), are common staple crops for smallholder farmers and rural populations in eastern Africa. We posit that by strengthening the African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) using a market-first approach to overcome constraints along the value chain leading to improved production practices, supply, postharvest handling, distribution and consumer acceptability of AIVs, opportunities for smallholder farmers to become more engaged in the supply chain will emerge. These key ingredients are needed to develop a sustainable and resilient AIV system providing opportunities to smallholders. We suggest that focus is needed first on improving AIV genetic materials, then ensuring systems are put in place for growers to access such materials, coupled with the development of sustainable production and postharvest systems that allow for year-round production as well as seed production/saving techniques. By doing this in parallel and in partnership with industry and the private sector, greater gains can be made in improved market access and building capacity of stakeholders through outreach programs across the AIV value chain while creating awareness of health and nutritional benefits of AIVs which further serve to drive market demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationXXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture
Subtitle of host publicationSustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014): International Symposium on Promoting the Future of Indigenous Vegetables Worldwide
EditorsM. Mecozzi, R. Srinivasan, J.D.H. Keatinge
PublisherInternational Society for Horticultural Science
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9789462610897
StatePublished - Dec 6 2015

Publication series

NameActa Horticulturae
ISSN (Print)0567-7572

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture


  • African indigenous vegetables
  • Amaranth
  • Amaranthus spp.
  • Cleome gynandra
  • Diversity
  • Health and nutrition
  • Income generation
  • Market-first
  • Moringa
  • Moringa oleifera
  • Nightshade
  • S. nigrum
  • S. villosum
  • Science-driven
  • Solanum scabrum
  • Spiderplant
  • Traditional vegetables


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