Native African fruit trees hold key to vitamin-rich diet -

Native African fruit trees hold key to vitamin-rich diet

Countries Top Stories
Native African fruit trees hold key to vitamin-rich diet

Small farm holders should be encouraged to domesticate native and exotic fruit trees to offer vital vitamins to millions of Sub-Saharan Africans, website reported.

A International Forestry Review study argues the case for traditional knowledge to be combined with scientific advances in germplasm collection, selection and vegetative propagation.

"Traditional knowledge includes, for example, farmers knowing the trees with the tastiest fruit or that are the highest yielding," co-author Ian Dawson, of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), was quoted as saying.

"But farmers may not know the best ways to handle and propagate these trees to bring them into cultivation, while keeping these superior features."

The study suggests local farmers be trained in handling germplasm, living tissues from which new plants can grow, so they can then apply their new skills to the fruit trees they find naturally in their environment.

Techniques could include vegetative propagation, which can 'clone' trees, giving farmers the ability to select and domesticate trees with specific characteristics such as nutritious and plentiful fruit.

For example, vegetative propagation techniques can accelerate the production of the Baobab tree’s vitamin C-rich fruit, reducing the period between planting and first fruiting from 10 years to around four years.

"Traditional farmers can be a valuable source of practices and techniques which have produced centuries-old resilient and diverse production systems,"  Centre for International Forestry Research scientist Terry Sunderland was quoted as saying.

"A central approach to better managing the resource is to assist farmers to improve the tree stocks that they grow on the farm and at community level with interventions to increase yield, quality and delivery."

Nearly a third of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished — the highest proportion in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's calculations in 2010 - and millions are affected by lack of micronutrients such as vitamins.

Indigenous fruits, such as the fruit of the Baobab tree and the highly nutritious Safou fruit, could be part of the answer to solving hunger, because they often have better nutritional profiles than staple foods, claim authors of a recent ICRAF study.


Subscribe to our newsletter