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African vegetables growing in Kenya gets boost with new varieties

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Farming of the hugely popular indigenous African vegetables in Kenya has received a boost as farmers are now growing fast-maturing, high-yielding varieties.

Growing of the vegetables, consumed widely across the East African nation by health conscious consumers, has not been in tandem with rise in demand as farmers relied on the traditional species, most of which grow naturally.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, however, recently released certified seeds of nightshade, vine spinach, jute mallow, and spider plant, giving farmers an opportunity to reap big from their ventures.

Moses Alumiti, a farmer in Rongai, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, is among those growing the new varieties of seeds.

“I heard of the new seeds about three months ago and went for them in Nairobi. I have already had my first harvest and I am impressed,” he said.

“Not only are the vegetables maturing faster, in about two months, they are also offering leafy plants that fetch more in the market,” said Alumiti, who sells a small bunch of the vegetables at 0.09 U.S. dollars.

Mary Abukutsa, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who has been licensed to commercialize the new varieties said the seeds will foster production and consumption of the indigenous crops.

“Besides early maturity and resistance to drought and diseases, the vegetables are highly nutritious,” Abukutsa said.

“The quantities of valuable macro nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamins in the vegetables are higher compared to some of exotic vegetables,” Abukutsa said, adding that the vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants; substances that reduces risk of heart diseases and certain types of cancer.

African vegetables for many years have for long been treated as weeds but with the growing popularity, they have found their way into the formal economy and are now sold in supermarkets at a pricey amount.

Initially, the veges made less than 50 percent of all vegetables consumed in the country because they were considered a poor man’s crop.

However, with increased demand, the plants make more than half of all veges consumed in the East African nation, according to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.

Indigenous vegetables have a lot of advantages over the exotic vegetables like cabbage and Sukuma wiki because they don’t require a lot of inputs such as fertilizers and are resistant to pests.



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