An Italian scientist, Per Rudebjer, has said farmers can improve their livelihoods if they grow a lot of neglected vegetables such as amaranthas (bonongwe) and cat whiskers (luni).
Rudebjer said this at a four-day workshop on project proposal writing for upcoming scientists held in Lilongwe recently. The scientists were drawn from Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda.
He said bonongwe and luni are easy to grow; hence, have potential to generate a lot of wealth for farmers.
“According to research so far done, these vegetables are rich in such nutrients as calcium, iron and vitamins. In fact, in Kenya, African leafy vegetables are now in supermarkets and are popular among consumers,” said Rudebjer.
He said the Kenya Consumer Association is sensitising people to change the perception that neglected vegetables are not for villagers.
In Europe, Rudebjer said Lucola salad, which had lost popularity, is now a hot commodity in supermarkets.
Bunda College of Agriculture Principal Professor Moses Kwapata agreed with Rudebjer that neglected vegetables can add a lot of value to farmers because they are easy to grow.
“We organised this workshop because we know that if farmers start growing leafy vegetables, the whole country will benefit because they are rich in mineral content,” said Kwapata.
He said the college will work with the Consumer Association of Malawi (Cama) to ensure that many Malawians are sensitised to the importance of growing and eating neglected vegetables.
Cama executive director John Kapito said he was looking forward to working with the college in promoting the vegetables which he said are good than the imported ones.
“As a nation, we have been brainwashed into thinking that the imported foods are superior to local ones and that mindset has to change because local plants are resilient to adverse weather,” said Kapito.