Back to basics – revisiting indigenous crops for nutritional security

SPGRC training participants

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Africa is the most diverse population of humans in the world in terms of genetics, language and culture. It is no secret that with the advert of modernity and the associated challenges with it, some of the solutions could be hidden deep in the culture of the people. Problems of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), climate change’s effects and the erosion of both the culture and germplasm that sustain these societies is under threat. It is also no secret that the food basket in both the rural and urban African population is getting smaller, resulting in unhealthy eating.

Fortunately for the SADC region, we know that a number of tribal communities in the region still survive on traditional sustainable food systems and some of these indigenous plants are available in our genebank but have been only partially studied. It is upon the local institutions to study this local material that has adapted to the local climate (landraces), to understand the value of the material and bring in communities to jointly research how communities could use indigenous knowledge for nutritional security.

The SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre (SPGRC) in collaboration with AU/NEPAD SANBio, and support from the Finnish-Southern African Partnership Programme BioFISA II, held a training workshop from 16-19 April 2018, CSIR, South Africa. The workshop was attended by 10 out of 16 National Genebanks viz: Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and South Africa. The workshop looked at how to harmonise the documentation of the germplasm collections in the SADC region and how to address nutrition challenges through researching the material.

“When everything has been said and done, it is imperative that both explicit and tacit knowledge is needed for the African researchers to be able to put their money where their mouth is, both literally and figuratively. Unless Africans research their traditional African food systems, no-one will,” said Dr Ereck Chakauya, the Network Manager for AU/NEPAD SANBio.