Domestication and conservation of neglected traditional leafy vegetables, less consumed despite their high nutritional and therapeutic value
Tatiana Vidjo , Benin
Yélomè Paterne BAKPE , Benin
Hermann Tossou , Benin
Valentin ATTOSSI , Benin
Frida DOSSA , Benin
Agronomic and nutritional importance of traditional leafy vegetables
Agronomic and nutritional importance of traditional leafy vegetables
Traditional leafy vegetables are beneficial for ecological reasons as these plants increase crop productivity, conserve soil and improve fertility. When traditional vegetables are used as cover crops, they also help prevent soil erosion, reduce evaporation and stifle weeds. Grown as green manure and buried in the land during plowing, traditional leafy vegetables increase the soil's organic content and improve its structure. Well adapted to tropical agro-ecological conditions, easy to produce and not very demanding on inputs, they remain an alternative to the reach of vulnerable populations. They give greater production per unit area in a relatively short time compared to cereals. In addition, they are very insensitive to diseases and problems caused by insects. Traditional leafy vegetables are more tolerant of biotic and abiotic stresses than European-style leafy vegetables. Unlike vegetable vegetables such as tomatoes, leafy vegetables are more resistant to heavy rainfall and require less irrigation water (Kayane et al., 2005). From the point of view of restoring soil fertility, by re-burying organic matter from leafy vegetables in the soil after harvest, they improve the nutrient content of the soil.
Traditional leafy vegetables are among these African species of great diversity and multiple uses. Thus, they play an extremely important role in food security and the fight against poverty in Africa (Attere, 1999). Leafy vegetables play an important role in the diets of all populations around the world, particularly in Africa, Asia and Oceania, where they provide the essential part of nutritional and medicinal requirements (Batawila et al., 2005). Traditional or local African vegetables are increasingly known for their importance in contributing to the food security of millions of Africans in rural and urban areas (Rubaihayo, 2002). They are foods with high nutritional value; they contain carotenes (provitamin A), various B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin), folic acid and folates, vitamin C, minerals and proteins (Stevels 1990, Patrick 2005). They can therefore provide many minerals necessary for the proper functioning of the body. The most important minerals found there are: calcium, iron, and phosphorus. They now appear as allies in the fight against "hidden hunger", that is, micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A and minerals including iron, which prevents anemia (Dansi et al., 2008a). In sub-Saharan countries where populations suffer from frequent anemia caused by malaria, iron intake is very important and recommended. Indeed, 100g of leafy vegetables provide daily 4 to 7mg of iron sufficient for a child and is a significant contribution for an adult (Diouf et al., 1999). In general, the consumption of 100 grams of leafy vegetables is sufficient to meet the vitamin A requirements of a young child and is a significant contribution to the recommended intake.
Why traditional Leafy vegetables (TLVs) ?
In 2050, could we feed the 9 billion people on our planet? This issue raised up particularly after the economic crisis of 2007-2008, during it was observed that the consumption growth outpaces steadily the production growth. More than 815 million people are suffering from hunger and millions of children are vulnerable to malnutrition (FAO 2017). This raised questions about how to meet the food needs of the 9 billion people expected in 2050 in a new climate regime? TLV4life believes that the production in quantity and quality of traditional vegetables (TLVs) is an appropriate answer to this question. Cultivated or harvested in the wild, TLVs as opposed to exotic vegetables, occupy a prominent place in the diet of the African population especially in Benin because of their high nutritional values. TLVs provide 10 to 100 times more micronutrients than salad, cabbage or leek (Kahane et al. 2005), and the therapeutic virtues they possess. They are also rich in micronutrients and are crucial for the food and nutritional security of both malnourished people (obese in this case) and those living below the poverty threshold. However, many TLVs are unknown and many more are falling at the expense of foreign vegetables which are less nutritious and more dependent on pesticides and fertilizers. Neglected by research, little is known about the ecology and little has been done to identify the most effective domestication to promote their use and maximize their economic value. High potential for yield, resulting in vitamin deficiencies and risks of pesticide-related diseases, and the supply of TLVs on the market is much lower than demand. Also, for more profit the farmers are turned to the new exotic varieties with high yield potential. In doing so, these producers guide the diet of urban populations towards exotic vegetables, resulting in vitamin deficiencies and the risk of diseases caused by pesticides.
With TLV4Life, we are convinced that the intensification of the use of TLVs, the improvement of their quality and their productivity represent undoubtedly alternative solutions to the preservation of biodiversity, the resolution of the problems of undernourishment, nutrition and improving of living the standard of the population. Indeed, TLV4Life will impact the conservation of endangered species, the reduction of malnutrition hunger rate among the populations, the creation of jobs, the increase of the income of the gardeners, the agribusinesses and pharmaceuticals enterprises.
Our team of 5 members from different background possesses the skills needed to solve this problem. It is mainly composed by agronomists of various specialties (crops production, animal production, socio-economy) and a socio-anthropologist, all from the University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin). Frida is an agricultural engineer, specialist in crop protection and plant genetic resources and post-harvest management; Team Leader, she owns a start-up – on the production and promotion of TLVs – that recently win the Tony Elumelu Foundation price (2018). She has been recognized in 2015 as Young Leader of Benin by the Ebert Friedrich Foundation. Valentin is an agricultural economist very committed to actions in favor of sustainable agriculture and agricultural entrepreneurship. He is the coordinator of African Youth Network for Sustainable Development. Tatiana is an agronomist specialized in production and management of animal resources. She is co-founder of a start-up (Les Délices de la Ferme) that provides local people in Benin and other agri-food products (tomato paste, peanut paste, etc.) to the Beninese population. Her start-up was semi-finalist for the pitch organised by the international lab club. Hermann is an agricultural economist with sound expertise g in value chain development, agro-business promotion and climate change issues. He possesses solid experience in international development and has worked in Africa and Europe. Hermann has also developed strong skills in ICT4Ag through his youth coaching experiences in ICT4Ag. He owns an oil palm plantation farm in southern Benin and is a member of several youth networks around the world. Paterne is a socio-anthropologist and is very committed to issues related to financing in the agricultural sector. To this end, he has been shortlisted (and is awaiting the final selection) by the YALI program which selects and builds the capacities of young Africans.