24) International conference focuses attention on indigenous vegetables and legumes

The First International Conference on Indigenous Vegetables and Legumes, jointly organized by AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Bioversity International, the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) and the Global Horticulture Initiative, was inaugurated today at ICRISAT campus, Patancheru, by eminent agricultural scientist Dr MS Swaminathan.

More than 220 scientists working on indigenous vegetables and legumes in 42 countries are participating in this Conference. The Conference aims to create awareness on the importance of indigenous vegetables and legumes to food security, crop and food diversification, and improvement of nutrition and health (of both humans and livestock).

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, said that by focusing scientific research on indigenous vegetables and legumes, agricultural scientists have the opportunity to develop a diversified basket of crops for the farmers, and a diversified food basket for the consumers. This will strengthen the farmers' ability to withstand risk and improve incomes, and the consumers will have increased choice of vegetables and legumes for an improved and healthy world.

According to Dr Thomas Lumpkin, Director General of AVRDC, growing indigenous vegetables and legumes can provide both livelihood and nutritional security to the smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Dr MS Swaminathan, Chairman of the Indian National Commission on Farmers, said that indigenous vegetables and legumes help women farmers improve their incomes, in addition to fighting malnutrition and providing health benefits.

Indigenous vegetables and legumes are the lesser-known crops grown by farm communities in developing countries across the world. These are underutilized, locally adapted crops that have the potential for raising income of farm families and improve their nutrition.

The indigenous vegetables are mostly leafy greens that are easy to grow, are more resistant to pests and diseases, and are acceptable to local tastes. They help diversify production systems, income and diets for year-round nutrition. Some of the indigenous crops have medicinal properties, such as the presence of antioxidants, which can remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body.

However, these indigenous vegetables and legumes are at risk in many countries, where they are being replaced by a few high-yielding commercial varieties. Once an indigenous variety is lost, it is lost forever.

International agricultural research institutes, such as the organizers of this Conference, have been collecting, characterizing, preserving indigenous germplasm from developing countries in Asia and Africa. This is being further strengthened with research to improve the crops, and improve their utilization and market access.

The International Conference will help focus the attention of the scientists and policy makers on indigenous vegetables and legume crops. The four-day Conference is expected to create a forum of experts in the field of indigenous vegetable and legume research and development. This forum will develop strategies and work to promote the use of indigenous vegetables and legumes worldwide.

The technical sessions during the Conference will include discussions on genetic conservation, biodiversity conservation, breeding and biotechnology for crop improvement, farming systems, seed production technologies, post-harvest processing, value addition, marketing, and the development of research strategies and policies.

For further information, contact Dr ML Chadha, Director, AVRDC Regional Center for South Asia, ICRISAT campus, at Mchadha@cgiar.org; or Dr CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader Crop Improvement, ICRISAT at c(dot)gowda(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.