AFRICAN LEAFY VEGETABLES: THEIR ROLE IN THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION'S GLOBAL FRUIT AND VEGETABLES INITIATIVE|
Smith, Francisca I. & Eyzaguirre, Pablo
The increased awareness of the health protecting properties of non-nutrient bio-active compounds found in fruits and vegetables, has directed immense attention to vegetables as vital components of daily diets. For sub-Saharan African (SSA) populations, this attention on vegetables as vital dietary components is significant, as leafy vegetables have long been known to be indispensable ingredients in traditional sauces that accompany carbohydrate staples. African indigenous and traditional leafy vegetables thus have a pivotal role in the success of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global initiative on fruits and vegetables consumption in the sub-continent.
The joint WHO/FAO 2004 report on a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, recommended a minimum daily intake of 400g of fruits and vegetables. Also, at their 2004 joint Kobe workshop, the WHO and FAO developed a framework that proposes ways to promote increased production, availability and access, and adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables. This framework is expected to guide the development of cost-efficient and effective interventions for the promotion of adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables at the national and sub-national level.
This paper explores ways to integrate African indigenous leafy vegetables into the global fruit and vegetable programme initiative, and identifies some existing barriers to their effective mobilization. African Leafy Vegetables are increasingly recognized as possible contributors of both micronutrients and bio-active compounds to the diets of populations in Africa. Available data on the more commonly consumed varieties point to antioxidants containing leafy vegetables that can also provide significant amounts of beta carotene, iron, calcium and zinc to daily diets. How can the successful Nairobi leafy vegetable experience, be mainstreamed across the subcontinent to ensure their mobilization and integration in WHO's fruit and vegetable initiative? The Kobe framework recommends that fruit and vegetable promotion interventions should consider the process from production to consumption.
Very little is known about the production and consumption of African Leafy Vegetables. An expert report on patterns of vegetable consumption in the subcontinent lists common vegetables as onions, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage. Clearly, information on production, processing, distribution and marketing, preparation and consumption of vegetable species relevant to SSA, are vital and constitute the prop on which intervention programmes can be developed. Through its long collaboration with national governments, Bioversity International is well placed to catalyze the process of data generation and dissemination by countries in the sub-continent.
African Leafy Vegetables, micronutrients, antioxidants