African leafy vegetables: A review of status, production and utilization in South Africa
This article (PDF) in the journal Sustainability documents the state of utilization and production of African leafy vegetables (ALVs) in South Africa. ALVs are mostly gathered from the wild, with few selected species being cultivated, usually as part of a mixed cropping system in home gardens or smallholder plots. They have important advantages over exotic vegetable species, because of their adaptability to marginal agricultural production areas and their ability to provide dietary diversity in poor rural communities. Despite their significance in food and nutrition security, there is limited availability or access to these crops leading to underutilization. There is lack of suitable production systems, innovative processing, and value-adding techniques that promote utilization of ALVs. Furthermore, there is a perception that ALVs are food for the poor among the youth and urban folks, while, among the affluent, they are highly regarded as being nutritious. Some of the challenges hindering promotion of ALVs include lack of sound agronomic information due to limited research, shortage of seeds as currently there are no registered varieties for most of ALVs and lack of value-adding technologies. For leafy vegetables to move from underutilized crops to commercial-level production there is a need to generate production information as has been done on major crops. Promotion of ALVs needs engaging of policy-makers who will incorporate it into government policies and programs.