Growers’ Indigenous Knowledge and the Contribution of Neglected and Underutilized Tuber Crops to the Household Food Security in Southwestern Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Neglected and underutilized crop species that have huge potential for addressing the food and income needs of the farmers have been found in different parts of Ethiopia. Among the others, Plectranthus edulis and anchote (Coccinia abyssinica) are native to Ethiopia and important tuber crops widely cultivated for their food, medicinal, and cultural values. Despite the importance of the two tuber crops in supporting the livelihood of growers, limited research has been conducted. Hence, this Ph.D. dissertation aimed to bridge the existing knowledge gap related to the two tuber crops indigenous production practices together with associated constraints and their contribution to household food security in southwestern Ethiopia. A cross-sectional survey of 434 households, FGD, individual case studies, key informant interviews and field observations were used to collect the data. EpiData and STATA computer software were used to manage and analyze the data, respectively. Descriptive statistics, PCA, Multidimensional food security indicator (MFI) and logit model were used to analyze the data. Out of studied farmers, 45.8% in Chencha and 39.0% in Jima Arjo district have participated in P.edulis production. All growers produce the crop primarily for food. Besides food, the crop helps them to get small cash income, and to reduce risk in case other crops fail. The study documented six local varieties of P.edulis in Chencha and two local varieties in Jima Arjo district. Across the study areas, the growers consider several plant traits to select the best performing local varieties. The harvested tuber maximum storage life is not more than two days in both study areas; while in situ or leaving in the ground is the only available storage facility in the study area. P.edulis production trend is decreasing, and the growers are producing it less as compared to other crops. Notwithstanding its importance and long period farmers’ growing experience, the crop is mostly produced on a small plot of land around the homestead for home consumption due to low market demand, low price, and lengthy maturity. The current study identified some 13 P.edulis production constraints; and the top three according to the growers’ perception are lack of government attention, lack of improved varieties and lack of tuber seed. Some 66.4% of households in Chencha district were food secure and 33.6% were food insecure. The corresponding figures in Jima Arjo district were 82.1% and 17.9%, respectively. The logit regression model showed seven explanatory variables namely location of the study area, age of the household head, total crop production, total livestock owned, engagement of household head in off-farm activities, farmland size and total annual income were determining factors of the household food security. Overall, 39.5% of studied farmers in Gimbi and 82.9% in Ayira district participated in growing of anchote. The growers produce the crop primarily for food, to get additional cash income, cultural and medicinal values. Anchote production trend has been increasing over the past 10 years. This study identified two local varieties of anchote (white and red) in both study areas. The available storage facility in the study area is leaving in the ground and protecting from animals reach. Ten major anchote production constraints were found in both study areas. According to the growers’ perception, lack of improved variety and lack of government attention are the top ones. vii Some 75.4% of households in Gimbi and 78.6% in Ayira district were food secure, while 24.6% and 21.4% were food insecure, respectively. The logit regression model showed that the age of the household head, total crop production, growing anchote, dependency ratio, market distance, and total annual income were statistically significant in determining the household food security. It was learned that growers have a wealth of knowledge about the two tuber crops management, protection from wild animals, local variety selection practices, indigenous storage, and food processing practices that could be useful for further tuber crop improvement. Despite their benefits, however, the crop lacks attention from research and extension systems in the country. Therefore, regional and federal research institutes and higher education institutions should give more attention to improving and promoting the best performing local varieties of anchote. Considering its untapped potential and significant contribution of anchote to household food security, its production needs due attention in any on-going and future tuber crops development plan to enhance food security of the farmers that are dependent on it.



growers, indigenous knowledge, tuber crops, Plectranthus edulis, anchote, food security, Ethiopia