The University of Zimbabwe in Harare has launched a project in the country’s Buhera district in the Manicaland Province to promote wild plant foods that can supplement nutrition for communities round the country.
The project, coordinated by Dr Maud Muchuweti of the Department of Biochemistry and funded by the Kellogg Foundation, will be carried out by a team of experts in the fields of nutritional and biological science. It will seek to identify wild plant foods, study their preparation and preservation, analyze their nutritional content and catalogue and document their uses.
Wild plant foods are still eaten in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa despite urbanization, environmental degradation and the gradual loss of traditional indigenous knowledge, though in some countries, such as Thailand, Swaziland and Zambia, scientists say malnutrition has increased because of reduced consumption.
‘We want to create more awareness on the value of indigenous wild plant foods and promote their effective utilization,’ says Dr Muchuweti. ‘Wild plant foods are effective as a survival strategy. We are identifying plant foods that are traditionally used by people in Buhera. We are documenting how the foods are prepared and preserved as well as their nutritional content.’
By developing the project Zimbabwe is complying with the Convention of Biological Diversity, which specifically envsiages that national action strategies and sustainable agriculture programs for should include ‘promotion of crop diversification in agricultural systems were appropriate including new plants with potential value as food … [and] … and promotion of use of, as well as research on poorly but potentially useful plants and crops where appropriate’.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that food diversity is the key to good nutrition and that wild plant foods have an important role to play. The hope in Zimbabwe is that the new project will foster better understanding of the contribution of plant genetic resources for food to local economies, food security and income generation.
The Herald (Harare)