Monday, June 15, 2009
Indigenous vegetables can eradicate malnutrition, food shortage.
From the forest to the household backyard, indigenous vegetables could address malnutrition and head off the looming food shortage.
A study recently conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in partnership with the World Vegetable Center, a Taiwan-based research and development institution, shows that at least 10 promising indigenous vegetables are classified as priority crops for massive promotion.
These include alugbati (Basella alba), ampalaya (bitter gourd) or bayok-bayok for leaves (Momordica charantia), himbabao (Allaeanthus luzonicus), kulitis (Amaranthus), labong (bamboo shoot), upo or bottle gourd (lagenaria siceria), malunggay (Moringa), pako (fiddlehead), saluyot (Corchorus), and talinum (Talinum triangulare).
The study is part of the project dubbed, Promotion of Indigenous Vegetable for Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition Improvement of Rural Households in the Philippines, being implemented in the country through regional field units of the Department of Agriculture DA and the National Nutrition Council in cooperation with local government units.
DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said on Thursday these “less popular veggies” continue to be underutilized despite their known contributions to health and nutrition.
According to the BAR study, that is due to a lack of available seeds and germplasm for widespread propagation, inadequate information on use, importance, and performance and input requirements, as well as how indigenous vegetables fit into commercial production systems, Dayao said.
Another problem is that these traditional vegetables are being replaced by high yielding commercial varieties which are more proficient and preferred by most producers and consumers.
As such, the genetic resource of indigenous vegetables is dwindling and at risk of extinction, he said.
The promotion of these vegetables seeks to address the problems and boost food security, improve nutrition and the income-generating capacity of the rural poor, while conserving the biodiversity of vegetables indigenous to the Philippines.
The initiative is in harmony with the DA’s program on sustainable-nutrition advocacy by promoting the production, marketing and consumption of highly nutritious vegetables, and with BAR’s national program on indigenous plants for health and wellness, Dayao said.
Through the project, the introduction and selection of indigenous vegetables is promoted through technology demonstrations on proper cultivation and use in selected rural areas giving priority to Bicol, Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao, or regions where malnutrition and poverty are prevalent.
The project pushes for the production of seeds, cultivation in backyard gardens, and consumption of these vegetables, Dayao said.
Other indigenous vegetables being promoted and exhibited by the DA in plots for technology demonstrations are eggplant, amaranth, cucurbit, radish, bottle gourd, luffa (smooth and ridged types), wax gourd, bittergourd, snake gourd, squash, jute, basella, kangkong, ivy gourd, basil, lablab, rosella, okra, yardlong bean, winged bean, cucumber, tomato, and vegetable soybean.
These vegetables were chosen based on nutrient content, medicinal and health benefits, nonfood uses, and volume of production and food preparation.
They are considered indigenous to the Philippines because they grow abundantly in rural areas, although not everybody knows their value as affordable and alternative sources of essential nutrients.
These vegetables are easier to grow, more resistant to pests, and are highly acceptable to local tastes. Indigenous vegetables are suitable as cash crops, source of daily sustenance, new crops and variations to diversify production systems and diets, Dayao said.
Initiating awareness about these vegetables and collecting their seeds are part of initial steps toward their preservation. The ultimate goal is to increase the actual use of these “unpopular” crops, he said.
Promising lineages have been identified, and their seeds are being prepared for distribution. Nutritional tests have also been conducted and production strategies are being developed. In no time, these so-called underused vegetables would soon find their way into the mainstream vegetable arena known to even nonvegetable eaters, he added.
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