Stakeholders championing the African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) as viable vegetable alternatives have singled out the dearth of information as a major bottleneck in their quest to popularize and increase the uptake of indigenous vegetables.
In a move aimed at addressing this concern, the Community Sustainable Agriculture and Healthy Environmental Program (CSHEP) in collaboration with Humboldt University Berlin, Centre for Rural Development (SLE), Egerton University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have launched a training manual for extension officers and practitioners.
The training manual tilted: “Production and Marketing of African Leafy Vegetables,” A Training Manual for Extension Officers and Practitioners, was officially launched on Friday 19, September 2021 at Ndeiya, Kiambu County.
The application and technology transfer oriented practical book contains main steps for upgrading AIV value chains from sowing, planting, tillage, pest and disease management as well as marketing.
The handbook which aims to improve the production of AIVs in Kenya, also outlines the need to complement the steps with good record keeping and provides farmers with more information from other sources regarding AIVs.
Speaking during the book launch where she was the Chief Guest, JKUAT Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof Mary Abukutsa, congratulated those who contributed to the production of the training manual, saying, the manual would anchor the years of research and promotion of AIVs.
“This book is simplified with illustrations for a better understanding. We need to continue drumming up support for AIVs as they are no longer weeds but high profile commodities with nutritional and unrivalled benefits,” said, Prof. Abukutsa, a staunch advocate for AIVs.
With the need for nutrient-dense crops intensifying due to prevalence of lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes, the importance of agro-ecological farming is growing, which Prof. Abukutsa noted, would be championed through the training manual’s aim of shifting our food systems to produce diverse range of healthy and nutritious foods.
According to statistics on healthy eating in Kenya, Prof. Abukutsa said, about 10% of Kenyans are eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.
She advised that the introduction of AIVs in diets will improve public health, since AIVs provide essential micro-nutrients which reduce incidences of diet related diseases and can make substantial contribution to the alleviation of malnutrition.
“AIVs have a huge potential in contributing to the Government’s Big 4 Agenda, particularly the Food Security and Nutrition, Manufacturing and Universal Health pillars” she stated.
While challenging stakeholders on the need to turn challenges into opportunities, Prof. Abukutsa, revealed that the training manual echoed her childhood personal experiences when her mother realized she couldn’t stomach animal products such as milk and meat, thus introduced her to Mrenda (Jute mallow) and other AIVs which improved her life and committed to ensure others benefit from the AIVs through research and informative publications.
On commercialization as a major obstacle to the farmers’ pursuit to maximize on value from their input, Prof. Abukutsa said, the training manual will be an eye opener for farmers in getting to know the various ways they can add value to their products through processes such as drying thus making tangible steps towards poverty reduction.
She acknowledged that there is still a long way to go in popularizing AIVs, noting, she is encouraged by the strides already made in the horticulture sector, and called for concerted efforts by the media, learning institutions and Government among other stakeholders in drumming up support for AIVs.
Ms. Mary Nyokabi, a farmer of AIVs who attended the launch, appreciated the new publication saying, it will make her farming easy, as she used to go online for information whenever she had any queries.
“This manual will be crucial in my plans in expanding my farming to include other AIV plants,” an elated Ms. Nyokabi said, and further observed that most farmers struggle due to lack of information on various farming practices they are involved in, which hinders their growth. She hopes researchers can freely share their findings with the farmers in future.
The Production and Marketing of African Leafy Vegetables training manual is the output of the Horticultural and Innovation Learning for Improved Nutrition and Livelihood in East Africa (HORTINLEA) project (2013-2018), an interdisciplinary research programme from involving German, Tanzanian and Kenyan doctoral students’ research.
Prof. Abukutsa conducted the final review of the publication, while Dr. Arnold Opiyo of Egerton University, contributed to its concept, as Dr. Judith Henze of Humboldt University Berlin, prepared the first draft based on expert knowledge of farmers, doctoral students and their supervisors. HORTINLEA consortium was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bokelmann of Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany).