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Dialogue on “A Decade of Research on Water Use of Underutilized Indigenous and Traditional Crops.”
As one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, South Africa boasts a rich tapestry of agro-biodiversity of which underutilized crops form part. There is an argument to promote underutilized crops to sustainably address topical challenges such as drought and water scarcity, food and nutrition security, climate change adaptation, environmental degradation, and employment creation in poor rural communities. Over the last decade, the Water Research Commission (WRC) has funded research on (i) drought tolerance and water use of underutilized crops, (ii) water use and nutritional water productivity of indigenous leafy vegetables, (iii) water use of indigenous cereal and legume food crops, and (iv) water use of indigenous root and tuber crops. The evolving research has focused on (i) identifying the potential of underutilized crops under water scarcity, (ii) determining their potential to contribute to a water-food-nutrition-health nexus, (iii) assess the opportunities, and (iv) challenges that exist for their promotion. Results showed that underutilized crops are the product of generations of landrace agriculture and that they are resilient and adapted to the needs of farmers in marginal agricultural environments. Their suitability to niche marginal and low input environments, as well as association with specific gender roles, offers economic opportunities in poor rural communities. Evidence also suggested that inclusion of underutilized crops in cropping systems could contribute to agro-ecosystem and dietary diversity to improve nutrition. Their economic and food security potential, together with their status as a subset of agro-biodiversity offers an opportunity to address several of the Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8 & 15). Given that South Africa continues to be affected by poverty, food insecurity at household level, inequality, climate change etc., there is a need to consolidate these research gains in order to sustainably address poverty-unemp

Feb 24, 2021 09:00 AM in Johannesburg

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