Association of indigenous knowledge with nutrition, health claims and consumption of traditional African leafy vegetables: a comparative study of agricultural and pastoral communities of Narok south district
Several studies have shown that increased awareness of health protecting properties of nonnutrient bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables has directed immense attention to vegetables as vital dietary components. African leafy vegetables are among the plant products that can have immense benefits of these non-nutrient bio-active compounds to alleviate micronutrient related deficiencies. The diversity and status of consumption of these African leafy vegetables usually depend on the indigenous knowledge of the local communities that is passed down through generations and varies from place to place, between communities, and between individuals. For the pastoralists, knowledge on African leafy vegetables is often lacking because they do not form items of diet. For the farming communities, the available knowledge is often not documented. Thus the main objective of this study was to compare the indigenous knowledge on diversity, health and nutrition claims associated with the consumption of African leafy vegetables among the pastoral and agricultural communities of Narok South district. A cross sectional survey was conducted to study the indigenous knowledge on nutrition and health claims and the commonly consumed African leafy vegetables among the pastoral and farming communities. A total of 384 households were selected, 76 from the pastoral and 308 from the agricultural communities. Samples of vegetables were also taken to the National Museums of Kenya for identification. Quantitative information was collected on household demographic profile and socio- economic characteristics, availability, accessibility, diversity and consumption of ALVs. Qualitative information was also collected on the indigenous knowledge on health and nutrition claims attached to consumption of ALVs. This information was complemented by the findings obtained from FGDs using FGD interview guide. The findings showed significant difference on socio-economic characteristics while differences on the household demographic characteristics were not significant. The availability and access to ALVs in the pastoral areas is significantly low while farming communities have access to a wide variety of these vegetables. The findings showed significant difference on knowledge claims between the two communities. Black nightshade (Solanum ssp) was the most popular in knowledge claims followed by Spider plant (Cleome gynandra), Amaranth (Amaranthus ssp), Vine spinach (Busella alba), Stinging nettle (Urtica masaica), Pumpkin leaves (Cucurbita ssp) and Cow pea leaves (Vigna unguiculata) and these claims varied from vegetable to vegetable. The mean vegetable dietary diversity score for the pastoral community was significantly low (0.97), while that for the agricultural community was average (4.39). This study concludes that the indigenous knowledge on health and nutrition claims associated with consumption of ALVs is significantly different between the pastoral and farming communities. Further the diversity and frequency of consumption of African leafy vegetables is significantly low within the pastoral community as compared to the agricultural community.