Traditional African vegetables go commercial in Cameroon
There’s big demand for African nightshade in Foumbot and beyond. Cameroon can capitalize on this nutritious crop developed with the help of WorldVeg plant breeders.
In Cameroon, African nightshade is an important traditional vegetable and is widely grown, especially in the Western region of the country. During a recent field trip, we were amazed to see saloon cars transporting the vegetable from farm gates to the Foumbot wholesale vegetable collection center, and then lining up to unload the bundles. Women do most of the collection at the farm gate. Once transported from the hinterlands to centralized collecting points in the transport chain, the nightshade is re-loaded onto large trucks that carry the produce to big cities such as Douala and Yaounde during the night to avoid high daytime temperatures. Vast amounts of African nightshade are conveyed from the collection center to cities as far as 300 km away.
From visual observations, all the African nightshade harvests coming to Foumbot collection center appear to be one cultivar. In subsequent discussions with vendors and farmers, it was learned that the common cultivar in the region is ‘Bafoussam 1’ (Solanum scabrum)—a line developed by WorldVeg from a local landrace. WorldVeg conducted participatory variety evaluation in Foumbot and other areas in the country in 2008/2009; demand creation and linkage activities were conducted to bring together various actors including producers, traders, extensionists, and researchers during that period.
Nearly 10 years later, it’s clear those demand creation activities were successful, and that the links to bring this nutritious vegetable to market involve many different actors of all sizes. Capitalizing on R&D activities of major traditional African vegetables such as African nightshade in Cameroon will improve the nutritional status and the livelihoods of a large majority of people in the central African sub-region, especially women and their family members.
Story and photos: Fekadu F. Dinssa, Regine Kamga and Victor Afari-Sefa