|Authors: ||L.W. Kariuki, P.M. Maundu, Y. Morimoto|
|Keywords: ||food consumption, women┐s groups, local leafy vegetables, promotion|
Kitui, one of the semi-arid districts in Kenya, is frequently hit by drought and consequently food shortage.
Micronutrient deficiencies, particularly iron, vitamin A and zinc, are known to be widespread in the district.
Local vegetable species including, spiderplant (Cleome gynandra), African nightshade (Solanum spp.) and leaf amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) are known to be rich in these micronutrients.
The species are drought tolerant and grow naturally here.
Though popular elsewhere in the country as vegetables, all were considered weeds in Kitui area.
Spiderplant and African nightshade were not popular in the area, while leaf amaranth was only occasionally used.
Five community groups, mainly comprising of women and located around Kitui town, were chosen for intervention to promote cultivation, selling and consumption of the vegetable species.
Intervention activities focused on nutrition education, cooking demonstration, provision of seeds, agronomic training and market linkages.
All groups had limited access to irrigation water.
The situation before and after a one-year promotion intervention was compared.
Monitoring was done at group level, in supermarkets and in open air markets.
By the end of the one year period, two species had been adopted for both consumption and marketing but to different extents and at different times.
The groups that received all interventions performed the best while the groups that did the worst received only seeds and no other interventions.
During the first half of the year, African nightshade got into the market for the first time.
Within the same period there was a noticeable increment in sales of leaf amaranth.
Acceptance of spiderplant, both for home consumption and marketing, lagged behind and only started picking up at the end of the one-year intervention period.
An important lesson learnt is that the five intervention strategies are complementary and useful in the promotion of underutilised species.
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