We studied wild and semi-wild leafy vegetables used by the Maale and Ari ethnic communities in southern Ethiopia. Quantitative and qualitative ethnobotanical methods, including individual and focus group (n = 18) discussions, field observations, and individual interviews (n = 144), were used in three rural kebeles (lowest administrative unit). The two ethnic communities consumed 30 leafy vegetable species grouped into 22 genera and 15 families. The study participants underlined that wild and semi-wild leafy vegetables are important components in traditional dishes, more frequently during periods of food shortage. The communities showed high preference for Balanites aegyptiaca and Solanum dasyphyllum in the Maale and Ari study sites respectively. Taste, marketability and above ground edible biomass were farmers’ main selection criteria suitable for leafy vegetables cultivation. The transfer of local knowledge within the community on wild and semi-wild leafy vegetables is not differentiated by gender or age and thus enables knowledge continuity, although harvesting and cooking activities are considered as women’s tasks by the communities. Major threats to wild and semi-wild leafy vegetables need to be minimized and complementary in-situ and ex situ conservation strategies scaled up.
- Food shortage
- Leafy vegetables
- Social group differentiation
- Traditional botanical knowledge