Untapped potential of Livingstone potato, an indigenous and underutilised root crop in Zimbabwe: A review
The Livingstone potato (Plectranthus esculentus), a tuberous root vegetable indigenous to Africa, remains a neglected and underutilised crop species (NUCS). Of late, there has been a shift in how the NUCS are viewed as consumers become increasingly aware of their nutritional and medicinal value. The objective of the review was to highlight research developments of the Livingstone potato and to identify existing research gaps in a quest to unlock the potential of this crop. Traditionally, the vegetable has been utilised for food, economic and medicinal benefits. However, recent research developments in Africa have demonstrated that the Livingstone potato is highly nutritious and can provide raw materials for the agro and pharmaceutical sectors. While these are notable developments, more needs to be done, especially in Zimbabwe where there is very little researched information on its production and utilisation. The economic impact could potentially be at household, farmer and national level through establishing strong value chains. This is important in order to increase awareness and promote the crop, whose production is on the decline. The diversity and nutritional value of the Livingstone potato needs to be evaluated in Zimbabwe, as a step towards crop improvement, which is key to improved productivity. Continuous production at a large scale will help preserve the germplasm and prevent the genetic erosion currently taking place. This review echoes previous calls for the government of Zimbabwe to take bold steps to support the NUCS, such as the Livingstone potato, at policy level and to fund programmes that deal with such crops.
Key Words: Medicinal, nutritious, Plectranthus esculentus