The Genetic Diversity of Popular African Leafy Vegetables in Western Kenya

  • Christine A. NdinyaEmail author
Part of the Sustainable Development and Biodiversity book series (SDEB, volume 22)


African leafy vegetables are widely consumed in western Kenya. The most popular being Solanum spp. (African nightshade), Cleome gynandra (spider plant), Vigna unguiculata (cowpea leaves), jute mallow, Amaranthus spp. (amaranth), Crotalaria spp. (slender leaf) and Cucurbita spp. (pumpkin leaves). Other vegetables that are consumed but to a lesser extent are the Basella alba (vine spinach) and Brassica carinata (Ethiopian kale). The wide genetic diversity of African leafy vegetable species contributes to their wide distribution and ability to perform over a wide range of agro-ecological zones in western Kenya. African leafy vegetable domestication is a recent occurrence with some still being harvested in the wild. The genetic diversity of African leafy vegetables therefore comprises of the wild landraces and the recently developed improved varieties. The differences are mostly brought about in taste and morphology. Yield aspects (leaves and seed) of these vegetables are contributed to by the genetic diversity. Morphological characteristic differences in some species like amaranth are distinct and easily observable, but in other species like spider plant differences are not that obvious. These differences bring about variations in popularity, depending on age groups, locations and utilization. An example is African nightshade, where the landraces known for bitter tastes are preferred by the older people and the improved varieties that are mild in taste are popular with the young generation who like the mild ones. The urban women prefer the improved varieties which have wider leaves and are easy to prepare. The landraces are threatened with extinction because of population increase in western Kenya. People have encroached into the wild such as the Kakamega Forest and open fields, thereby reducing the biodiversity of ALVs. The diversity is also threatened by change in climate, people’s culture and eating habits due to the influence from the west. Efforts being made to conserve the genetic biodiversity of ALVs are in-situ by local farmers and ex-situ by institutions such the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock and Research Organization gene bank.


Genetic Diversity Western Kenya African leafy vegetables 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research OrganizationKakamegaKenya

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