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In any location, there will be some indigenous food plants. These are edible plants native to and characteristic of a region or country. Closely related are traditional foods, defined in an article in Ground Up magazine as “plants that formed the pre-colonial diet.” In Africa, such plants include sorghum, millet and cowpea.

Indigenous food plants can be an extremely important part of the local diet, for a number of reasons:

  • Indigenous food plants tend to be very nutritious, often more nutritious than some introduced (and perhaps more popular) plants.
  • Indigenous crops are well-adapted to the regions where they originate. They often are free of pests and diseases, and are able to grow in extremely difficult conditions (in very dry areas or in very acidic or alkaline soil, for example). Sometimes they have even come to be considered weeds!
  • The diversity provided by eating indigenous vegetables contributes to food security. Rather than relying on one food crop, a wide range of food plants are eaten and enjoyed. If one fails to grow and produce, others can be eaten instead.

People in a given area likely have some history of eating indigenous plants, though in many places such knowledge is rapidly being lost. One reason is a widespread impression, especially among younger people, that traditional varieties are ‘primitive’ or ‘old,’ and that farming is a disgraceful vocation.



  1. 2011-10-20 An important part of ECHO’s ministry is sharing information about underutilized plants. Many of the seeds in our seed bank are for crops that have not been heavily researched, but that have been found to grow well under challenging conditions and that are already important to people in some...
  2. 2009-04-01 If you work in a country that is not your own, chances are you sometimes wonder about which crops to grow and promote. A good first step is to find out what is already being grown in-country. It will quickly become obvious what the staple grains are. Less apparent, and often greatly...
  3. 关键资源
    1998-01-01 The first section of this note focuses in on a new technology, called the ‘technology protection system’ by its developers and ‘terminator technology’ by its opponents. This technology illustrates the potential for patents to impact society at the fundamental level of food production. The...
  4. A SOLUTION THAT ENDS MALNUTRITION Food Plant Solutionscreates educational materials that explain what nutritional food is, why our bodies need it and how to grow and use it. Food Plant Solutionsfocuses on what are often neglected and underutilized plants, plants that are growing in and adapted to...
  5. The manual is forpeople who eat, grow or buy food and who want to improve their lives, theircommunity and the environment that they live in. It has been written for, andby, people livingin Malawi. It will show you how to eat and live better andguide you in designing a sustainablefuture. The...
  6. In industrialized countries, we often take longevity and health for granted. When something opposes this notion, it is easy to feel threatened. In a country like Malawi, however, concepts like these are not a given. Death is as much a part of daily life as is birth. Villagers are barraged by...
  7. 2012-04-01 Introduction In many parts of tropical Asia, especially on rainfed farms, there has been an explosion of acreage planted in maize. The increase in commercial maize production is driven by growing livestock feed demand, and is displacing many traditional crops, including the staple upland rice....
  8. This article is from ECHO Asia Note #12 In 2010 the ECHO Asia Impact C enter, along with lead partner, Pennsylvania State University, and Maejo University, was awarded a CRSP Horticulture Exploratory Project grant with major support from USAID. Entitled, "Strengthening Indigenous Informal Seed...
  9. 2017-10-04 Why is local food important? We will discuss a few topics related to local food: 1) Right now, local food is a trend that includes a focus on super foods, clean food, and supplements. 2) Local food touches on food sovereignty. Do we have a choice of what we eat? 3) Indigenous plants are still...
  10. 2017-01-20
  11. 2013-01-20
  12. In Niger, a social enterprise is using local plants that are resistant to the arid climate of the Sahel to produce nutritious food. The result is better incomes for farmers and a preserved environment. The nutritional value of the leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds of some 15 wild plants are being...
  13. Abstract, BioResources, 2018 The world has huge floral diversity, whereas there often is poor and irrational utilization, especially of indigenous plants and residues from agricultural processes. Trees, shrubs, and herbs can have multiple uses at different levels as medicines and sources of...
  14. RIG Network – working to support local food production in and by remote Indigenous communities for food security, better health, wealth and wellbeing. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this land, throughout Australia and celebrate and recognise their continuing connection to...
  15. For probably as long as people have lived in Africa, they have eaten culturally and traditionally important indigenous fruits such as baobab, desert date, black plum, and tamarind. Farmers have been able to enjoy the fruit of these plentiful wild trees without developing any knowledge of how to...
  16. 关键资源 2000-04-01 Until the beginning of the 20th century, people in Africa depended to a significant extent on food which had its origins in Africa. A diverse range of originally wild African species was domesticated a long time ago and included rootcrops, cereals, legumes and many different vegetables. Popular...
  17. 1997-01-01 The workshopemphasized the need to carry out more research into Africa's own crops rather than finding ways to produce more exotic crops in a hostile environment. Three working groups were established and were asked to prioritize actions required in the near future and to advise on a policy to be...
  18. 2009-09-02 This book provides a comprehensive synthesis of current knowledge of the potential and challenges associated with the multiple roles, use, management and livelihood contributions of indigenous vegetables in urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. There has been growing research and policy effort...
  19. The book encourages more Tanzanians to use local varieties of vegetables in their cooking. It describes the preparation techniques as well as the health and nutritional values of traditional vegetables. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity 49 pages, illustrated
  20. 2009-01-01 Indigenous vegetables have been used for ages by local communities. However, many are underutilized because their value is not appreciated, particularly in regions where the plants are not native. This book attempts to narrow the knowledge gap. It is meant for consumers who would benefit from...
  21. 1995-11-14 In feeding themselves with perishable-prone supplies, rural societies have resorted to fermenting corn, rice, and milk to produce foods of nutritional value for local consumption. For example, in Zhengzhou, China, microbial fermentation of bean curd, by concentrating the protein conten of the...
  22. 2005-01-01 24 pages, illustrated, photos Links Project: gender, biodiversity and local knowledge systems for food security Report No. 40
  23. 关键资源 2007-12-10 It has been recognized that an important factor in improving the viability of rural livelihoods in developing countries is the promotion of sustainable agriculture. As opposed to relying solely on cash crops, this can be more easily achieved through the domestication of various indigenous fruit...
  24. 2004-01-01 The purpose of this study is to provide recommendations for enhancing the role of indigenous vegetables for improved nutrition, healthy diet, and diversified income generation in home garden production and commercial farming systems in Tanzania. The study uses a multidisciplinary approach to...
  25. 1966-01-01 This volume presents numberous data on locally available sources for improving the diet and by recommending and describing methods that are not beyond the capacity of the rural population.
  26. 2018-08-05
  27. 2020-01-01 It is now well accepted that the consumption of plant-based foods is beneficial to human health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and derived products can be excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, and fiber and usually have a favorable nutrient-to-energy ratio. Furthermore, plant foods are also a...
  28. Abstract, The Scientific World Journal, 2020 India being developing country and land of villages, elevated rates of poverty persist among rural communities, inspite of green revolution. e high economic growth has failed to improve food security in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas [1]....
  29. Abstract, Scientific Reports, 2021 This study aims to provide a simple framework to identify wild food plants with potential for popularization based on local knowledge and perception. To this end, we also characterized the distribution of this knowledge in the socio-ecological system. We...
  30. Abstract, South African Journal of Botany, 2019 Highlights • A comprehensive inventory of edible plants of southern Africa is presented. • The inventory includes 1740 food plant species from 74 sources. • Apocynaceae has the highest number of edible plants (137 species). • The diversity in...
  31. Abstract, Plants-People-Planet, 2020 As the world's population is increasing, humanity is facing both shortages (hunger) and excesses (obesity) of calorie and nutrient intakes. Biodiversity is fundamental to addressing this double challenge, which involves a far better understanding of the global...
  32. Abstract, Foods, 2020 Wild food plants (WFPs) are often highly nutritious but under-consumed at the same time. This study aimed to document the diversity of WFPs, and assess perceptions, attitudes, and drivers of change in their consumption among Minangkabau and Mandailing women farmers in West...
  33. Abstract, International Journal of Agricultural Extension, 2015 The wide-spread presence of home gardens, in developing nations is a strong foundation for food security, both in terms of quantity and quality. Indigenous wild food plants are a rich source of health-giving micronutrients, which are...
  34. 1992-01-01 *Available Only in Spanish. This publication gives an account of this unprecedented experience in the management, germination and production of native species in nurseries, developed for nearly twelve years. Our interest, as with other CAAP publications, is to contribute both to technological...