The World Vegetable Center, Eastern and Southern Africa, maintains a collection of 2,700 vegetable accessions, mostly across African indigenous vegetables such as African eggplant (Solanum sp.), African nightshade (Solanum sp.) and amaranth (Amaranthus sp.). These indigenous vegetables are among the most nutritious crops for rural and peri-urban populations in Africa. While National genebanks in East and Southern Africa conserve various plant species, they lack online databases documenting their collections.
Access to seed, passport and characterization data is essential for effective germplasm conservation, and for the use of vegetable diversity for variety development. Geographical information of the location of the accessions is crucial to guide collecting missions and select germplasm based on agro-climatic adaptation. Germplasm databases group accessions according to taxonomy and geographic and thematic data information, and must be updated once additional data on the entries become available. To establish and maintain national germplasm databases, curators need to have database management skills.
The main objective of this project is to train germplasm curators from Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia on digitizing information for national germplasm databases with a focus on indigenous vegetables to improve data availability and sharing. The project has two goals: to increase available biodiversity data, within and beyond the grant period; and to apply biodiversity data in response to conservation priorities. The overall aim is to enhance knowledge about indigenous vegetable diversity and to promote conservation and sustainable use of these crops.
Four of the partner organizations have been registered on the GBIF.org portal and registration of the remaining partners involved with the project is in progress. A capacity building workshop hosted by the World Vegetable Centre was arranged for the last week of May which will inform the next steps of the project. This workshop will cover many of the project deliverables and activities planned and partners will identify, discuss and report the various threats for conserving the diversity of indigenous vegetable species, in addition to carrying out activities to integrate biodiversity information into a policy and decision making process by working with stakeholders involved with these processes. The project will now build towards the digitization of national vegetable databases with data sets being published through country nodes.
The collaboration between genebanks in East Africa to share information and to publish on the GBIF portal for a general public was strengthened after a capacity building workshop on data preparation and publication, hosted by the World Vegestable Center.
5 of 6 project partners are registered at GBIF, and the registration of a 6 partner is still in progress. This will encourage them to continue publishing data on GBIF. The project has made continuous improvement on biodiversity data management to support agricultural diversification for sustainable production, food security and healty diets.
Three datasets on vegetable germpalsm has been published during the project with a total of 4,078 data points from 14 countries in East and South Africa, including Zambia, Burundi and Tanzania. Two of the datasets contain passport data of historic collections of vegetable germplasm for ex situ conservation in African genebanks. The third dataset contains information on seed kit distribution to re-introduce traditional vegetables to farmers for agricultural diversification and resilient seed and production systems. The three datasets combined represent interactions between genebanks and farmers through time.
So far, the dataset of seed distribution of traditional vegestables represents the largest germplasm distribution from a genebank to farmers. A scientific article has described the dataset and its meaning in the journal Plant Genetic Resources - Characterization and Utilization, which will be published in the coming months. The results from the dataset have been presented in two workshops as an example of how genebanks can bette collaborate with farmers to develop resilient seed systems. The first workshop was during the annual meeting of international genebanks organized by the Crop Trust from the 2-8th of November 2018 in Fortaleza, Brazil, and the second workshop was held during the Asian Seed Congress on November 14th of 2018.
All three datasets will help to improve the understanding of the distribution of traditional vegestables in East Africa. During the project, the distribution of 113 prioritized traditional vegestables was mapped to prioritize areas for further germplasm collections in Africa. This was accomplished by comparing existing data from GBIF, the Genesys genebank database and WIEWS genebank database.
What the project got from the results of the datasets was that the most important hotspots of traditional vegestables are found in Cameroon, southeast Chana and south Togo. These areas showed high levels of species richness, and therefore the project suggests, in addition to efforts to conserve traditional vegestables in East Africa, which was the focus of the project, to emphasize conservation and characterization of traditional vegestables in West Africa. The results are being prepared for submission to a scientific journal.