Original Paper

Food Security

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 227-233

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The role of wild vegetable species in household food security in maize based subsistence cropping systems

  • S. MavengahamaAffiliated withDepartment of Soil Science, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch UniversityDepartment of Agriculture, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Zululand Email author 
  • , M. McLachlanAffiliated withDepartment of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  • , W. de ClercqAffiliated withDepartment of Soil Science, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University


Wild vegetables (WV) are an important source of food in the maize based subsistence farming sector of rural South Africa. Their main role is as relish as they are used as an accompaniment for staple cereal based diets. They are generally reported to be rich in micronutrients. Although they may be consumed in small quantities, they influence the intake of cereal staples, manage hunger and play a central role in household food security for the poorer rural groups. Mixing several WV species in one meal contributes to dietary diversity in terms of more vegetable types as well as in terms of choice of relish. For some very poor families WV are substitutes for some food crops. The seasonal occurrence of these vegetables leaves many families without a food source during the off-season. Wild vegetables increase agro-biodiversity at the household level. This agro-biodiversity helps in buffering against the accumulation and multiplication of pests and diseases and provides important cover for the soil. Further research on agronomic, social and economic dimensions is required to understand the roles of WV in subsistence farming systems in South Africa.


Household food security Wild vegetables Maize based cropping systems Subsistence farming system