Seminar: Promotion of indigenous vegetables

The Promotion of Indigenous Vegetables in African Urban and Peri-urban Spaces: Production, Consumption, Poverty Alleviation and Policy seminar

Venue and dates
Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa; 23 - 26 January 2008

Background and justification
Urban agriculture is widely practiced in many cities of the developing world, providing income, nutrition and often a safety-net function to the poorest sectors of society, and as such is an important, but underexploited vehicle for poverty alleviation. It makes productive use of undeveloped land, but is frequently not considered in urban land use planning and zoning processes and outcomes. Simultaneously, many small-scale farmers and market-gardeners in these cities and the surrounds propagate and make use of species largely overlooked by research and development agencies. The species are collectively termed “indigenous vegetables”, and represent a vital store of biodiversity for local, national and international gene pools. Within the last decade national and international agencies have realised that the neglected species offer significant opportunities for development of new varieties and crops, provided swift action is taken to conserve the local knowledge and genetic strains.

With this realisation has come a flurry of research activity over the last several years. The time is ripe to pull together the research effort to date, distil the policy implications and consider further research requirements for the next decade. This is particularly so on the African continent, where as yet there has been no informed synthesis of current knowledge, its policy implications and the knowledge gaps to be addressed.

Problem statements
This seminar seeks to overcome the following constraints with regards to the promotion of indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban agriculture:
  • The neglect of indigenous vegetables by the research and development community (or uncoordinated scattered research and development actions;
  • Inadequate engagement of the policy-making community around the benefits of urban agriculture and indigenous vegetables;
  • The need for a broad multidisciplinary understanding of the issues which concern the production, market chain and consumption of indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban agriculture.
  • The decline of indigenous vegetables in people’s diets in many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, particularly amongst the young urban population, and the accompanying loss of indigenous knowledge on the production methods, preservation, use and nutritive value.

The seminar has two types of primary direct beneficiaries:

  • Policymakers from the seven IndigenoVeg African partner countries of Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa (drawn from the relevant urban planning offices and agricultural ministries).
  • SSA and EU researchers working on research in indigenous vegetables and urban and peri-urban agriculture. Participants will comprise representatives from the 14 IndigenoVeg partners (in Africa based in Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda, three in South Africa; in Europe based in the UK, Spain, Denmark and two based in Germany), and various other interested external participants (from Universities, national research organisations, international research organisations based in SSA and Europe).

By informing policymakers about the benefits which could accrue from promoting indigenous vegetables in urban/peri-urban agriculture, the seminar will influence the policy agendas of these countries, thereby indirectly benefiting in the longer term indigenous vegetable farmers and consumers (both in rural and urban/peri-urban environments).

Overall objective
To contribute to increased food and livelihood security for the urban poor, especially women.

Project purpose

To develop a multidisciplinary forum to allow researchers in the fields of indigenous vegetable and urban agriculture research to engage with policy researchers in a task of transforming scientific concepts and lessons into policy recommendations, and to discuss these during the same forum with SSA policymakers, capable of influencing local and regional policy agendas, so as to reverse the declining trend of indigenous vegetable consumption, and hence enhancing food security for the urban poor.

Expected results
R1: Improved awareness by IndigenoVeg network partners and external researchers, scientists and multilateral agencies and donors on the synergies and research opportunities between the fields of urban agriculture and indigenous vegetables, pertaining particularly to: “Sustainable management practices for indigenous vegetable production”, “Opening niche markets for indigenous vegetables” and “Development of policy for the promotion of indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban areas”.

R2: New skills acquired by participating scientists in transforming scientific messages into policy recommendations.

R3: Policy recommendations relating to the promotion of indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban agriculture in SSA.

R4: Improved awareness by policymakers from each IndigenoVeg African partner country on the potential benefits arising from the promotion of indigenous vegetables in urban and peri-urban agriculture, and the constraints which need to be addressed at policy making level.

EU funded Coordination Action “IndigenoVeg – Networking to promote the sustainable production of indigenous vegetables through urban and peri-urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa (”, Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC)-Regional Centre for Africa (RCA), Rhodes University and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

John Woodend (
Charlie Shackleton (
Detlef Virchow (

Further information

16 January 2008
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