Page
14
Harnessing Plant Genetic Resources
of Neglected and Underutilized C
rop species for
Nutrition, Food
security and Health in Africa
D. Nyadanu and L. M. Aboagye
Department of Crop and Soil Scienc
es, College of Agriculture Education, University of
Education, Winneba, P. O. Box 40, Asante Mampong, Ghana
ABSTRACT
Africa is endowed with a lot of indigenous crops which are used as food and for treatment of
many ailments. However, current changes in
food habits amongst African populations have led
to overdependence on
few crops which are mostly
energy rich but nutrient poor. Most of these
crops are not well adapted to local conditions in Africa as compared to indigenous crops,
making their production
and consumption expensive, thus worsening malnutrition and food
insecurity problems. To harness the potential of plant genetic resources of neglected and
underutilized species, this paper evaluates ethno
-
botanical uses and proximate composition of
some in
digenous vegetables, root and tuber crops
, cereals
and fruit trees in Africa. The
indigenous crops studied were
:
Amaranthus
species,
Corchorus olitorius
L
.
,
Solanum torvum
L.
,
Solanum macrocarpon
L.
,
Solanum aethiopicum
L
.
, Kenaf (
Hibiscus cannabinus
L
.
),
Cocoyam (
Xanthosoma sagittifolium
(L
.
)
Schott
,
Taro (
Colocasia esculentum
L
.
),
Spider
plant
(
Cleome gynanddra
L.), Frafra potato (
Solenostemon rotundifolius
(Poir) J.K. Morton,
Baobab
(
Adansonia digitata
),
African black velvet tamarind (
Dialium guineense
),
African locust bean
(
Parkia biglosa
)
, Pigeon pea (
Cajanus caja
n
L
.
, Mills.)
African yam bean (
Sphenostylis
stenocarpa
(Hochst ex. A. Rich) Harms), Sorghum (
Sorghum bicolor
(L.) Moench, Kersting’s
groundnut (
Macrotyloma geocarpum
(Harms), Finger millet (
El
eusine coracana
(L.) Gaertn,
and Fonio (
Digitaria exilis
(Stapf). The r
esults of
ethno
-
botanical studies and proximate
analysis revealed that these crops have food
and medicinal
uses a
n
d contains a relatively high
amount of crude protein, carbohydrates and
minerals, yet they are neglected by scientific
research and policy makers. The studies also suggest
ed
that most indigenous communities lack
the technical knowledge o
f processing and conservation
of these
crops and thus
i
f these crops
are genetically impro
ved and the
ir
value chain enhanced, they have the potential to solve
nutritional and health needs
of indigenous communities in Africa, particularly in times of food
scarcity.
Key words
:
Food
security
, Genetic
Conservation
,
Neglected and Underutilized crop
s,
Nutrition
,
Plant
genetic resources.