Potential impact of edible tropical legumes on crop productivity in the small-holder sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment
University of Venda, Department of Plant Production, P. Bag X5050, Thohoyandou 0950, South Africa
Agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa are dominated by the small-holder types of production. The small-holder sector (SHS) is characterized largely by resource-poor farmers with small farms averaging about 0.4 ha per household. The farmers are constrained by lack of capital to purchase production inputs or lack of the pre-requisite technical and managerial skills to produce and market commodities successfully. Crop production systems in the SHS are predominantly subsistence, consisting of largely cereals and a limited proportion of tropical legumes in spite of the importance of legumes in these cropping systems. The objective of this paper was to explore the potential impact of edible tropical grain legumes on household food security and poverty alleviation in the SHS production systems in sub-Saharan Africa. The legumes provide food for human consumption, improve soil fertility and can be traded to generate income. The potential yield advantage of tropical legumes over that of cereals is high particularly under low soil fertility conditions. From a nutritional standpoint, the legumes contain a broad range of amino acids and vitamins. Because of the high protein levels (>20%) in the grain, the legumes are valuable sources of affordable protein particularly in rural small-holder communities that largely depend on cereal based diets and face high risks of malnutrition. The legumes can also be used in the production of stock feeds. Therefore, the tropical legumes offer flexible options for improving food production as well as income generation for the small-holder farmers in Africa thereby contributing to household food security and poverty alleviation.
amino acid; protein; vitamin; Africa south of the Sahara; agricultural management; agricultural worker; article; cereal; controlled study; crop production; cropping system; dietary intake; food composition; food industry; food intake; food security; grain; harvest; household; legume; nonhuman; nutritional value; poverty; protein malnutrition; skill; small holder sector; soil fertility; stock assessment; Africa; crop; drought tolerance; income; intercropping; rural area; seed production