By George Munene
Research by Egerton University into Togotia (Erucastrum arabicum)– a forgotten small leafy vegetable–has discovered it to be a drought-tolerant and disease-resistant crop capable of boosting food security in Kenya.
The project dubbed “Exploring the potential of Togotia a forgotten African leafy vegetable for nutritional security and climate adaptation in Kenya,” was aimed at understanding the crop’s growth and development, and cultivation systems as well as establishing the nutritional value of food products derived from it.
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.
Related News: UK couple capitalise on Kenyan diaspora demand for traditional vegetables
Related News: Kakamega vegetable farmers raise income 30% through blockchain technology
The research which was conducted by Egerton University’s Dr. Miriam Karwitha Charimbu (Department of Crops Horticulture and Soils) and Dr. Charles Kihia (Department of Biological Sciences) was good news for the country as it reels from severe food insecurity as a result of five consecutive under-par rainy seasons and the proliferation of crop diseases.
Also known as Sarat in Kalenjin, its consumption averages 56.4 tonnes annually and is part of the diet of many Kenyan communities but its intake differs across counties. It is consumed as a stand-alone vegetable or mixed with other vegetables as an accompaniment to mokimo, and githeri, among others. The study showed it is used as a vegetable by 50 per cent of the respondents, fodder (22%), and herb (12.5%).
Most communities from Central Kenya (Kikuyu, Embu), Eastern (Meru, Kamba, Tharaka), and Western Bantu (Luhya, Kisii, Suba), Highland (Kalenjin, Sabaot), Lake Region (Luo), and Plain Nilotes (Maasai, Samburu) use Togotia as a vegetable.
Others in the Coastal Bantu (Swahili Mijikenda, Taita), and Cushites (Somali, Orma, Gabra) use Togotia as fodder and herb.
Related News: Farmer capitalises on growing demand & premium prices for traditional crops
The project was funded by Innovate UK KTN Award 2022, with a total grant of Sh5.24M, and run for six months.
It has also led to the founding of a Togotia seed system through Egerton University Agro-Science Park, led by its director, Professor Paul Kimurto, who allocated land for seed multiplication.
“We look forward to growing Togotia and developing it to the commercialization stage. We will continue to support its development and multiplication so that we come up with the best varieties. If possible, we will also hopefully do genetic modification of the crop with other vegetable varieties in the country to come up with varieties that germinate easily, yield higher, and are drought tolerant and disease resistant to help deal with food security in the Country and other parts of Africa,” said Professor Paul Kimurto.