Potential role for wild vegetables in household food security: a preliminary case study in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
AbstractThe value of wild edible vegetables in food security has not been given sufficient attention in South Africa. Consequently, there are no formal interventions that seek to encourage people to use traditional vegetables as sources of essential nutrients. Studies on the role of wild leafy vegetables in food security could provide important information for development of policies on careful exploitation of natural resources for human sustenance. The objective of this study was to provide a rapid assessment of general knowledge about wild leafy vegetables among subsistence farmers from Ezigeni, a rural location in South Africa, and to determine the availability of wild leafy vegetables from cropping fields during spring - before the cropping season started. A focus group discussion and transect walk were used to collect qualitative data on knowledge of traditional vegetables. Availability of wild leafy vegetables was quantified using one-square-meter plots, randomly located in a cropping field and in an area that has never been cultivated (veld). Results showed that knowledge of wild leafy vegetables among the participants was positively correlated with age. Education status improved knowledge of wild vegetables for middle-aged participants, but not for the youth (35 years or younger). Availability of wild edible leafy vegetables (plant numbers and yield) increased from August to October, but there was a significant difference between species. Data from a focus group discussion showed that wild leafy vegetable availability occurred early in spring, when traditional crops were less abundant. It is concluded that knowledge of wild leafy vegetables may be lost in the near future, unless efforts are made to educate younger generations about their importance. They could be used as an important source of nutrients during the pre-cropping season, before traditional crops are available for human consumption. It is recommended that agronomic investigations into cultivation of wild leafy vegetables that are adapted to rural areas where exotic leafy vegetables are not widely available be undertaken. Those studies could contribute significantly in government policies to improve food security in rural areas, and in the improvement of wild vegetable status, whose potential as sources of nutrition is currently undervalued.
Keywords: availability, knowledge, wild leafy vegetables
African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development Vol. 6(1) 2006
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