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Networking to promote the sustainable production and marketing of indigenous vegetables through urban and peri-urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.

Final Report Summary - INDIGENOVEG (Networking to promote the sustainable production and marketing of indigenous vegetables through urban and peri-urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa)

The 'Networking to promote the sustainable production and marketing of indigenous vegetables through urban and peri-urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa' (Indigenoveg) project is supporting indigenous vegetables to support the African diet, economy and environment. In 2008 the network has focused all its efforts on its third operational objective of disseminating the outcomes of the coordination action to an audience of scientists, policymakers, consumers and farmers. Efforts have been concentrated primarily around three dissemination tools.

The end of project policy dialogue workshop took place 23-26 January 2008 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The workshop aimed to distil key policy lessons from the research to date and prepare draft policy recommendations for dissemination to international donor, development and aid agencies, governments, non-govermental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector. The workshop consisted primarily of invited presentations on the key lessons in relation to indigenous vegetables (IVs) and urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), and working sessions attended by the Indigenoveg group, other researchers in the field of UPA and IVs and researchers specialising in relevant policy issues.

The ensuing policy recommendations were presented to a group of invited policy makers from the survey in cities in the African partner countries and from various African regional cooperation organisations and networks on the last day of the workshop. Country working groups were set up so that the recommendations could be adapted to each specific country situation, and to facilitate the development of a plan of action following the workshop.

The Indigenol/eg book will be an up-to-date scientific synthesis of existing knowledge and new information (drawing extensively from, but not restricted to, the Indigenoveg project) bringing together the fields of UPA and IVs on the African continent. It will be published by Earthscan.

The network has produced information material on IVs aimed at a farmer, consumer and extension services audience. The material has focused on Amaranthus spp., Brassica carinata, Cleome gynandra, Hibiscus sabdariffa, Abelmoschus esculentus, Cucurbita moschata, Solanum aetiopicum, Solanum scabrum, and Corchorus olitorius, and includes cultivation practices advice and nutritious, easy-to-prepare recipes from across Africa. To facilitate future dissemination the material has been made freely available on the Indigenoveg website, for any organisation to download and re-print, translate or modify as required. All Indigenoveg meeting reports and other materials are posted on the project website: http://www.indigenovegorg.

Results achieved

The policy dialogue workshop has enabled partners who would not normally work on policy issues, to have the opportunity to reflect on the policy implications of their research and consider how scientific messages can be transformed to be accessible and of interest to a relevant policy maker.

The event has been an important breakthrough since researchers and policy makers rarely find themselves in the same arena with the chance to hold a two-way conversation about what knowledge policy makers are missing and what information scientists can provide to fill these gaps and meet important development priorities. The workshop showed that where spaces for this interaction are provided, the results can be impressive. In several countries, the dialogue between the Indigenoveg researchers and the policy makers has continued after the workshop, and in-country events to disseminate the key messages about IVs in UPA are being organised.

The Indigenoveg project has come to an end, however, partners will work on certain dissemination activities beyond the lifetime of the project continuing with the mission of bringing 'prestige' for IVs, both within the research and development community (through the Indigenoveg book and national follow-on workshops to the policy dialogue workshop), the farmer and consumer community (through the Indigenoveg pamphlets), and the policymaking environment (through the national follow-on workshops to the policy dialogue workshop).

Intentions for use and impact

Indigenoveg hypothesises that by supporting the cultivation of IV varieties in preference to exotic import varieties in UPA in sub-Saharan Africa significant beneficial impacts will arise:

1) At the societal level, in terms of increased food and livelihood security for the urban poor, especially women who are often responsible for the cultivation of IVs and in terms of diversified income-generation activities through the exploitation of domestic and export niche markets.
2) At the level of the economy, in terms of increased marketing and commerce possibilities, particularly with overseas' markets.
3) At the environmental level, in terms of more sustainable UPA production practices.

Indigenoveg was not expected to result in any knowledge that has the potential for industrial or commercial application. However, it will result in valuable research knowledge for the promotion of IVs in UPA. As the consortium expressly pursued the goal of promoting and bringing prestige to IVs (counteracting the recent tendency of African urban consumers to view exotic vegetables as 'modern' and, therefore, preferable, dietary options), it naturally is sharing its findings and conclusions in full with other researchers, the farmer, consumer and policymaking community. The means of doing this have been varied, comprising the aforementioned book and policy dialogue workshop, the policy dialogue report, meeting reports, pamphlets targeted to farming and consumer communities, and also a number of scientific publications.