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Impact of Nutritional Perceptions of Traditional African Vegetables on Farm Household Production Decisions: A Case Study of Smallholders in Tanzania

Recent years have seen increasing political interest and growing public health awareness and advocacy for diversifying diets into highly nutritious traditional vegetables, fruits and other nutrition-sensitive crops as a more viable approach to mitigate the growing scourge of malnutrition due to unhealthy and imbalanced diets. These foods contribute essential micronutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and other health-related phytochemicals to staple-based diets and their consumption is crucial for the attainment of several Millennium Development Goals. Despite their nutritional benefits and the high farm gate values per unit of land, the production and marketing of traditional vegetables from Tanzania and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are constrained by factors such as poor quality seeds, lack of appropriate market information and support systems, and lack of consumer awareness of their nutritional importance. This paper investigates the determinants and pathways for smallholder participation in traditional African vegetable production and identifies entry points for farmers to increase traditional vegetable production by linking nutritional awareness and promotion with potential high value markets. A primary survey of 181 traditional vegetable growers from five regions of Tanzania indicates that perceptions about the nutritional value of traditional African vegetables are a main driver of household production decisions in the sector. The results of this study provide evidence that farmers tend to grow more African traditional vegetables as compared to other crops based on their increased level of perception towards nutritional value of traditional vegetables along with other factors such as their market value, timely availability of quality certified seeds, willingness to invest in labour, required training for women and better access to credits. Farm size negatively affects growing traditional vegetables, implying that on a comparative basis, smallholders tend to grow more traditional vegetables than larger-farm operators. Thus, more attention should be given to reducing production and its associated transaction costs by ensuring timely access to quality certified seeds, ensuring optimal use of inputs and increasing labour productivity, particularly for smallholders.

About Srini Rajendran