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Baringo farmer finds hope in forgotten resilient vegetable

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Julia Chebotibin had been struggling with crop failure due to drought and crop diseases for many years, the discovery of Togotia (Erucastrum arabicum), a drought-tolerant and disease-resistant leafy vegetable has given her hope for a better future. 

Julia had a small farm in Baringo County, where she grew maize and beans, but the crops had performed poorly owing to Kenya’s chronic drought.

In Baringo, Togotia is sold as a vegetable to generate income, mostly by women. Farmers reported that Togotia may be solar-dried and stored for use during droughts or when other vegetables are unavailable. The seed can also be harvested and sold to other farmers for income generation.

Togotia is a rich source of crude protein, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins C, and B. The consumption of these vitamins and minerals from Togotia has numerous health benefits, including reducing obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental decline. It can slow down aging and strengthen the immune system.

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Julia heard about Togotia’s potential as a drought-tolerant and disease-resistant crop thanks to sensitization work done by Egerton University’s research project dubbed “Exploring the potential of Togotia– a forgotten African leafy vegetable for nutritional security and climate adaptation in Kenya.” It aimed to understand the crop’s growth and development, and cultivation systems as well as establish the nutritional value of food products derived from it.

She decided to try her luck and planted a small patch of Togotia on her farm. To her surprise, the crop grew well, even though there had been no rain for several weeks. Julia was impressed by the crop’s resilience and decided to plant more Togotia on her farm.

As she harvested her first batch of Togotia, Julia was filled with joy and excitement. The crop had exceeded her expectations, and she knew that she had found a new source of income. Julia began to sell Togotia at the local market, and soon she was making more money than she had ever made before. She could pay for her children’s education and invest in her farm.

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Other farmers in Nakuru and Baringo Counties also started growing Togotia, and the crop’s popularity is growing nationwide.

Egerton University Agro-Science Park Director Professor Paul Kimurto promised farmers that Togotia will be included as part of vegetable varieties after all multi-locational trials and commercialization is complete and KEPHIS registers the variety after National variety evaluation.

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