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.