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Effect of the nutritional perception of traditional vegetables on the production decisions of smallholders in Tanzania

Afari-Sefa, V., Rajendran, S., Kessy, R. F., Karanja, K. D., Musebe, R., Samali, S., Makaranga, M.
Acta horticulturae 2015 no.1102 pp. 229-238
advocacy, antioxidants, children, diet, farms, field crops, foods, fruits, growers, household income, malnutrition, markets, mortality, nutritive value, phytopharmaceuticals, politics, postharvest losses, prices, profitability, public health, seeds, support systems, surveys, vegetable growing, vegetables, vitamins, Tanzania
The world has arrived at a critical crossroads in the effort to promote food and nutrition security. Globally, several attempts are underway to mitigate the scourge of malnutrition due to unhealthy and imbalanced diets. There is increasing political interest and growing public health awareness and advocacy for diversifying diets with highly nutritious traditional vegetables and fruits and other nutrition-sensitive crops. These foods contribute essential micronutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and other health-related phytochemicals to staple-based diets, and their consumption is crucial for the attainment of several Millennium Development Goals, such as improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. Despite these nutritional benefits and the high farm-gate values per unit of land, the production and marketing of traditional vegetables from Tanzania and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are constrained by factors such as poor quality and availability of seeds, lack of appropriate market information and support systems, and high postharvest losses. This paper investigates the determinants and pathways for smallholder participation in traditional African vegetable production and identifies entry points for farmers to increase traditional vegetable production by linking nutritional awareness and promotion with potential high value markets. A primary survey of 181 traditional vegetable growers from five regions of Tanzania indicates that perceptions about the nutritional value of traditional African vegetables are a main driver of household production decisions in the sector. Traditional vegetables have high farm gate values compared to field crops, and contribute significantly to household income. Future efforts to increase profitability of traditional African vegetables should emphasize interventions that will improve value addition and market efficiency, and help stabilize prices during seasonal gluts.