African leafy vegetables: a nutritious income source in Benin
This video ‘L’importance des legumes locaux – The importance of local vegetables’ (in French with English subtitles) on Biodiversity International explains about traditional leafy vegetables in Benin tells us about their important nutritional benefits and how they are grown, bought and sold in local food systems. Furthermore, the video highlights the contribution that these vegetables make to the livelihoods of farmers, market vendors, delivery service providers and other members of the vegetable value chain. Traditional African leafy vegetables are valuable for many different reasons. They hold cultural importance, are well adapted to the environments they are grown in, and often have much higher nutritional value than more widely known crops such as lettuce and cabbage, with many being rich in iron, vitamin C and vitamin A. Some vegetables are even used for their medicinal benefits or as nutritional supplements (nutraceuticals), and they are also important sources of income. In Benin, Bioversity International has been working with national research partners to further investigate the nutritional value of different species such as wild African black plum (Vitex doniana), African eggplant (Solanum macrocarpon) and waterleaf (Talinum triangulare). These vegetables, whether wild or cultivated, make up an important part of the Beninois diet, but have in recent years been overlooked or sidelined by more popular Western vegetables, often because their nutritional value is unknown. Bioversity International has been working with local NGOs, national research institutes, extension agents, schools and hospitals to raise awareness of the benefits of these vegetables and bring them back to people’s attention. Improving the value chains of traditional vegetables is vital to ensure the availability of diverse nutritious species at the market and to enhance farmer incomes at each step. One example shown in the video is the importance of improving transport links between the farm and the market, especially for vegetables that are highly perishable.