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African Crop Science Journal

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Bambara nut: A review of utilisation, market potential and crop improvement

RJ Hillocks, C Bennett, OM Mponda

Abstract


Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea  (L.) Verdc.) originated in West Africa but has become widely distributed throughout the semi-arid zone of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Sharing a high nutritive value with other widely consumed legumes, bambara has an appealing flavour which is reflected in demand from small local and niche markets. Despite its high and balanced protein content, bambara remains under-utilised because it takes a long time to cook, contains anti-nutritional factors and does not dehull easily. Bambara yields well under conditions which are too arid for groundnut (Arachis hypogea), maize (Zea mays L.) and even sorghum  (Sorghum bicolar). Its drought tolerance makes bambara a useful legume to include in climate change adaptation strategies. Existing bambara products are not well promoted in the local or international markets and new products are needed that highlight its inherent nutritional and culinary advantages. A number of projects on bambara, involving several countries in SSA since the 1980s, have failed to stimulate a sustainable increase in the production of the crop. The absence of functioning value chains has been a factor in this failure, as accessible market outlets might provide the required incentive for smallholder households to obtain improved seed and invest more of their land and labour in the crop. There is little documented evidence of trade in bambara but circumstantial evidence indicates considerable international demand. More attention should be given, therefore, to market research and development, with crop improvement programmes being more market-led, if bambara is to make a greater contribution to household income and rural development in SSA.

Keywords: Anti-nutritional factors, Vigna subterranea

African Crop Science Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1 - 16



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