Not agricultural biodiversity, but here’s a somewhat radical (in its context) take on conservation through use. Of course, this strategy is fairly well established for wild plants.
From Tamil Nadu, news of a farmer who has developed a very promising, high-yielding hybrid coconut. Has anyone pulled together similar examples of farmer breeding?
This article in African News Dimension sings the praises of Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), saying it could be grown and consumed a lot more in Malawi. Interestingly, one of the reasons why it is underutilized may be customs such as the one which says that only grandparents and widows are allowed to grow it.
Coincidentally, here’s a very detailedÂ article which perhaps sheds some light on how some medicinal plants may come to be used by people. Aframomum melegueta is a herb in the ginger family which grows along the coast of West Africa. The seeds are sometimes called “Grains of Paradise,” and were traded as a spice in the 15th century, giving its area of origin the name of Grain Coast. The plant is used in traditional medicine, and biochemists at Rutger’s Biotechnology Centre have now isolated a powerful anti-inflammatory from the grains. But here’s the fun part: apparently, Western lowland gorillas really like Aframomum. Did local people learn to use the plant by watching the gorillas?
Not for the first time, a study suggests that indigenous and scientific knowledge can add value to each other. This one comes from South Africa’s Human Science Research Council (scroll down to p.14 of the pdf). It found that any interventions to assist small scale farmers in the study area — two districts in Limpopo — would have to be low-cost and based on locally available resources and technologies. One of these resources turns out to be local leafy vegetables. The survey found that almost all respondents consumed African leafy vegetables, and dried and stored their leaves for use during the dry winter. It suggested that the communities could generate significant income by marketing this produce more widely.