New vegetable variety releases expand market options for Africa’s farmers
Seed development and multiplication systems in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are hindered by cumbersome procedures, which tend to discourage local seed production and encourage imports. With officially approved releases, local seed enterprises now have incentive to produce and market better quality vegetable seed to farmers. AVRDC actively supports the public and private seed sector by providing improved lines that accelerate cultivar development, sharing disease-screening protocols, and conducting training in genetic improvement and seed production. Breeding work on the new lines was carried out under Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems for Poverty Reduction in Africa (vBSS), a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
AVRDC plant breeders in the Regional Center for Africa, Arusha, Tanzania and the Subregional Office for West and Center Africa, Bamako, Mali, conducted the research in concert with colleagues at AVRDC headquarters in Taiwan and partners in national agricultural ministries, NGOs, and other international agricultural research institutes. Vegetables, especially indigenous vegetables, are vital for good health and a healthy agricultural sector. They are the best source of vitamins, micronutrients, and fibre required by the human body, and add much-needed nutritional diversity to staple-based diets.
In the field, vegetables are less risk-prone to drought than staple crops, as they typically have a shorter growing time; this allows farmers to maximise scarce water supplies and soil nutrients. Growing vegetables is one of the most potent means available for small-scale farmers to generate income on and off the farm. Labour-intensive vegetable production creates jobs and diversifies local cropping systems; it encourages entrepreneurship in marketing fresh produce and processing the harvest, which helps develop rural infrastructure and strengthen local economies.