By Eliot Gee, BFN Research Fellow
Located in Western Kenya, Busia County is home to a range of indigenous crops typically found only in smallholder farms and household gardens. Although many of these plants are associated with local culture and traditional health practices, their cultivation is low compared to that of staple crops like maize.
However, nutrient-rich native species offer a promising solution to the region’s high rates of malnutrition (over 26%), stunting, anemia, and other dietary deficiencies. Since 2012, the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Initiative has partnered with Kenyan universities and research institutes to conduct nutrient analyses of local crops; for example, the African nightshade, which contains 16 times more iron than kale (see Graphic 1).
In addition, locally-adapted crops can tolerate harsh environmental conditions (finger millet and Bambara groundnut are pest and drought-resistant), making them sustainable growing choices that build smallholder farmer resilience.