The nutritional and cultural importance of African Leafy Vegetables has become very important in South Africa in the past few years. Recent research has also confirmed these issues, leading to the incorporation of African Vegetables into the core business of the ARC. ARC-Roodeplaat wants to improve the distribution and conservation status of African Leafy Vegetables. Geographical collection data on Amarant, Cleome gynandra, Corchorus olitorius and Vigna inguiculata was obtained from the National Botanical Institute and the data was analyzed with DIVA and Flora map. Ecogeographical distribution maps were drawn to predict the possible distribution of the species. Germplasm of African Leafy Vegetables was collected during routine visits and the conservation status was discussed with participants in the study areas of Arthurstone in Bushbuckridge, Watershed near Ladysmith and Mars/Glenroy near Polokwane. Germplasm of various species were also collected in collaboration with the Plant Genetic Resource Centre (NPGRC) of the Department of Agriculture in Arthurstone and Watershed.
The NPGRC included leafy vegetables in their mandate since this trip. Seed flow diagrams were used to discuss the Watershed community's seed exchange systems. It was clear when discussing African leafy vegetables in communities that their conservation and utilization are declining. Also looking at the trendlines of African Vegetables availability and utilization it is clear that the use and availability of African Leafy vegetables are declining due to various reasons. Two major reasons are the negative image of the African Leafy Vegetables and the increased use of 'exotic' vegetables like spinach and carrots. The active promotion, use and conservation of African Leafy Vegetables are important if we want to increase the production potential and potential contribution towards food security in South Africa. This will ensure that the status of these crops is enhanced, specifically their contributing towards sustainable nutrition as well as sustainable production. Results from promotion activities in the project (reported in another paper) indicated that the negative image of African Leafy Vegetables could be reversed and also had an affect on the roll-out of the project to other areas of research such as plant protection, nutritional analysis and food safety, crop science and indigenous knowledge systems.