Local vegetable varieties for home gardening programs
Local vegetable varieties can produce stable yields, have high
nutritional value, and tolerate extremes such as drought. They can be used not
only for food but also for medicine, fodder, fertilizer, fiber, and fuel. Plant
breeders look to them for valuable traits. And, since local varieties resist
disease and pests, farmers can reduce or even eliminate their need for
environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
IIRR encourages the use of traditional varieties. They benefit
small rural and urban gardeners while preserving valuable genetic material.
IIRR home gardening programs start with an inventory of
vegetables indigenous to the program area. Sometimes, seeds are collected from
promising indigenous varieties in remote areas. They are then assessed and
promising accessions are propagated and distributed.
Community members, particularly elders, are asked about the
characteristics of their area's indigenous vegetablesgrowth patterns,
tolerance to extreme conditions, pest and disease resistance, palatability, and
food preparation. An IIRR worker tours the project area with community members
to help ensure that ail indigenous vegetables, including those not commonly
eaten, are identified.
Seed retrieval in remote areas focuses on varieties which are
becoming rare. With the help of some knowledgeable community members, seeds and
important information about the plants are collected.
In the Philippine provinces of Cavite and Negros Occidental,
traditional varieties introduced from other provinces have adapted very well.
Information gathered from people at the sites of seed retrieval helped maximize
the potential of the introduced plants. For example, the people in Negros used
to eat only the root of cassava (Manihot ecculenta), until it was learned on
visits to other provinces that cassava leaves can also be eaten. This
information was transferred during training and farmer meetings. cassava leaves,
which are more nutritious than the root, are gaining popularity in Negros.
In Ethiopia and Kenya, vegetables which are abundant but no
longer commonly eaten, have been repopularized as a result of an IIRR
intervention which has focused on indigenous knowledge. Elders were interviewed
regarding local plant varieties. They identified, among others, amaranth
(Amaranthus gracilis), spider plant (Gynandrapsis gynandra), and nightshade
(Solanum nigrum) as plants which had, over time, dropped from the local diet.
IIRR staff encouraged their use through hands-on training, appreciation session
and farmer meetings. Now these plants are again grown in home gardens.
Compiled by Normita G.