Traditional leafy vegetables in Zimbabwe: agronomic and market studies

Praxedis Dube

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Feeding the quickly growing population in Africa remains a global challenge. As the demand for food increases, climate change, on the other hand, poses more challenges to agricultural productivity, implying a threat to the provision of sufficient quantity and quality of food. Traditional leafy vegetables in Africa are resilient to adverse weather conditions and are naturally rich in nutrients, including vitamins A and C, iron, protein and other macro- and micronutrients. The growing importance of traditional leafy vegetables as affordable sources of micronutrients is predicated on the rising food and nutrient insecurity in many developing countries, e.g. Zimbabwe. It is in this context that the supply chain of traditional leafy vegetables was investigated. Increasing the production of traditional leafy vegetables will increase their consumption, and may also benefit the health of many people, and increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and the poor people involved in the supply chain. The study developed an analytical framework that can be used to evaluate and help researchers to come up with a general assessment of the production, markets and consumption of traditional leafy vegetables in Zimbabwe or across Sub-Saharan Africa. The framework was constructed based on the existing literature, and modified based on information gathered after assessing the traditional leafy vegetable supply chain in Zimbabwe. In addition, the study brought together seed science and economics in an interdisciplinary approach to address the problems of traditional leafy vegetables. A seed health test was conducted in order to determine the seed-borne pathogens associated with traditional leafy vegetable seeds. Seeds were collected from five different farmers in three provinces of Zimbabwe and tested for the presence of pathogens in the plant pathology laboratory. Another study was carried out with seeds from three traditional leafy vegetables sourced from five different farmers, in order to evaluate the germination of seeds and the morphological characteristics of the seedlings. The seeds were collected during the growing season of 2015–2016, stored at room temperature and tested for germination in the laboratory at regular monthly intervals during storage. Field germination tests were also conducted. The results from the two chapters (Chapters 2 and 3) show that the quality of the seeds depended on the seed sources. Finally, instead of only focusing on the seed science aspects, the study also took into consideration the need to assess the economic aspects of traditional leafy vegetable production and consumption. In this regard, the study examined the influence of various socio-economic characteristics of households on the quantity they consume and amount of money they spend on traditional leafy vegetables, as well as the potential of tradition leafy vegetables to improve food security. A survey was therefore conducted in four districts of Zimbabwe. The findings were subjected to two econometrics models and linear regression, and showed that consumption of traditional leafy vegetables is very low and depends on various socio-economic characteristics of the households. The latter study involved a survey and a gross margin analysis to evaluate the potential benefits of traditional leafy vegetables across different supply chain components. Improving the productivity of traditional leafy vegetables through research will go a long way in improving their contribution to the reduction of poverty and food and nutrition insecurity. In light of the findings from each chapter, the presented supply chain framework could be organised differently. The seed regulatory services and breeding research could be embedded horizontally instead of vertically.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Heijman, Wim, Promotor
  • Struik, Paul, Promotor
  • Ihle, Rico, Co-promotor
Award date17 Sept 2018
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463435000
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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