Vegetables are not only nutritious, but add taste and variety to staple foods, such sorghum, rice, and maize. But tomatoes, okra, and leafy greens, including amaranth, spiderwiki and other vegetables indigenous to Africa tend to have a short shelf life. Most are only available part of the year. During the “hungry” season before the rains come, rural communities have few ingredients available to add flavor to the staples they depend.
At the AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center office outside of Bamako, Mali, however, researchers and scientists are working with farmers to make vegetables available year-round through different preservation techniques. Theresa Endres, a community development specialist, is working with women farmers to determine not only which vegetables can be “transformed” into different products, but what products the women will actually want to use. Okra powder, for example, which is made from drying and then grinding okra, is commonly used in Mali for sauces; powdered tomato products, however, aren’t and the women prefer using fresh tomatoes for cooking.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), up to 50 percent of crops is wasted before it ever reaches the dinner table in Africa, making it more important than ever to find ways to preserve and transform food so that it’s available all year long.
Stay tuned for more on innovations that prevent waste in the food system State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, which will be released in January 2011.
- Breeding Vegetables with Farmers in Mind
- Native African Vegetables Could Help Solve Food Crises
- Cultivating food security in Africa
- Innovation of the Week: Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products
- Banana Wilt: The Spreading Menace
- Innovation of the Week: Homegrown Solutions to Alleviating Hunger and Poverty
- “Endangered Species” Means More Than Animals
- Our Survey Continues to Receive Responses from Innovators in Agriculture