Traditional leafy vegetables (TLVs) have formed a part of rural household food security strategies for generations. In an effort understand their role in household food security, the role and production of TLVs (morogo/ miroho/imifino) were determined in three culturally and agro-ecologically diverse rural communities in South Africa. A questionnaire survey was combined with qualitative methodologies to access the indigenous knowledge associated with the utilisation and production of these crops. TLV production is a female-oriented agricultural activity, as households mainly utilise TLVs for household consumption. Marketing of mainly dried TLVs was limited and income generated from these sales was used to complement household income. The importance of the different TLVs for household consumption varies according to the specific socio-economic situation of the household at a specific time, although they are very important in the period just before other crops are harvested. Cultural beliefs and taboo’s associated with agricultural activities were reported widely. Expenditure on agricultural inputs is low in all three villages. TLVs are commonly intercropped with maize, therefore their production and management practices are linked with maize. Uncultivated TLVs are generally harvested from maize fields and fallow lands. Variations between the villages were found for seedbed preparation, pest control management, fertilisation and irrigation practices. Interactions between crops in the production system and varieties produced had an influence on production decisions made. The socio-economic conditions of households determined the growth stages at which TLVs were harvested. Villages differed with regard to the TLVs mixed into a dish, the proportions of the different TLVs and the plant parts harvested (seed, stalks, flowers, growth points and fruit). Differences in preparation methods of crops existed and were reflected in the preparation method (frying, boiling), type of dish prepared (relish, incorporated into the porridge) and additions to dishes (adding of ash, peanut flour, bicarbonate of soda, mashed pumpkin seed, exotic vegetables, flowers and immature or mature fruit). The types of TLVs dried, preservation methods utilised, storage management and length of storage varied considerably between the three villages. Most of the dried TLVs were stored for up to one year, but the bulk was used within six months. Cowpea was perceived as an ideal dried crop for drought survival strategies as the dried leaves have a long shelf life. Villagers perceived TLVs to be nutritious, but it was not promoted amoungst vulnerable groups. The loss of indigenous knowledge (IK) was identified as a possible cause for this. The decline in utilisation of TLVs found in all three villages is mainly due to poor production systems (drought, low soil fertility, loss of IK and lack of seed). Seed systems for uncultivated plants were unstructured, although the older women had very sophisticated knowledge about seed quality. Differences in the utilisation and production of TLVs were found between the three villages. The main contributing factors towards the utilisation differences are caused by the climate and degree of indigenous knowledge in a specific area. Production differences are influenced by the bio-physical and socio-economic elements in the area.
Dissertation (MSc(Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2009.