n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - The role of traditional leafy vegetables in household food security in rural KwaZulu-Natal

Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



Traditional leafy vegetables (TLV) have been consumed by many rural communities for centuries and have a potential to contribute to household food security by providing direct access to readily accessible nutritious food. To assess the role and importance of the TLVs in rural communities, a survey was conducted during 2007 in Mtubatuba in South Africa. The study aimed at identifying and assessing rural households' levels of awareness, consumption and attitude towards TLVs. Data was collected through focus group discussions, seasonal calenda, and questionnaire surveys on 64 households. Results showed that TLVs were abundant in summer and that amaranthus, blackjack and pumpkin leaves were the most popular. Pumpkins were more popular for food security because they supplied leaves, seed and fruit. There was a general positive attitude towards TLVs and the community did not consider them "poor people food" or toxic, contrary to popular notion. Cooking time and processing of TLVs varied between the respondents, causing some concern over the loss of nutrients. The majority of the respondents consumed TLVs twice a week and the HIV / AIDS infected and support group considered TLVs nutritious and good immune boosters. This was attributed to community education programmes conducted by the local healthcare officers. The frequency of TLVs' consumption was positively and significantly (P≥0.05) correlated with the age and education level of the household, which could be attributed to high knowledge accumulated with age and access to information by the educated. However, TLVs were reported to be declining over time possibly due to changes in customs and land use. Further, information on agronomy, nutritive value and methods of preparation that minimize nutrient leaching is also scarce among the communities. It was therefore recommended that, as a food-based initiative toward alleviation of micro-nutrient deficiencies and poverty, local health institutes and other stakeholders should start promoting and strengthening current efforts that encourage the consumption of TLVs.

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