African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) in Kenya hold great potential for enhancing food, nutrition, and income security. These nutrient-rich crops are already integral to the diets of vulnerable populations. However, the AIV value chain faces significant challenges. Small-scale producer women farmers predominantly handle production using low-quality seeds and face high input costs, inadequate irrigation, and limited postharvest technologies that result in losses of up to 40-50%.
This project, led by Dr. Mumina Guyo Shibia based at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in partnership with and University of Nairobi and North Carolina State University, will work within Kisii and Kakamega Counties in Kenya to increase productivity, reduce postharvest loss, and enhance market access of AIVs to ultimately improve the livelihoods of small-scale producer women and youth farmers.
Researchers plan to accomplish this through four main strategies: 1) identifying high-yielding nutritious AIV varieties, determining their performance under diverse agronomic practices, and designing and implementing integrated pest management strategies; 2) analyzing postharvest shelf-life of AIVs and developing prototypes for value-added products; 3) understanding input and output market opportunities for the AIV value chain through value chain mapping; analysis of gender, supply and demand, consumer taste preference; and willingness to pay (WTP) for AIV value-added products; and 4) strengthening capacity of stakeholders through formation of producer marketing organizations, creation of production enhancing technologies, training on group management and financial literacy, organization of a Farmer Field & Business School (FF&BS) and Gender Action Learning Systems, and incorporating masters students in research.
Through these activities, this project is expected to determine high-performing AIV landraces that are preferred by consumers, effectively integrating them into value-added products that will be palatable to consumers, developing improved methods for increasing AIV shelf-life and therefore reducing postharvest loss, and linking market actors to increase income for producers, processors, and retailers. With consistent stakeholder input, it is expected that these improvements to the AIV value chain will eventually lead to an increased demand for and consumption of highly nutritious indigenous vegetables by Kenyans.