In 2004, FARM-Africa funded the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC) “to increase the productivity, utilisation and marketing” of African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs), such as amaranth, cowpeas, nightshades, spinach, kales and cabbage, in order to improve the health, nutrition and income of vulnerable groups in Kenya and Tanzania. About 500 farmers were organized into 20 groups and on average 20 beds (0.05–0.1ha each) were cultivated per farmer. The project used innovative approaches such as (1) training of trainers and support to business groups; (2) information about production and marketing; (3) changes in the production of indigenous vegetables; (4) seed dissemination, distribution and multiplication; and (5) increased market orientation through business support units. Farmers were able to obtain greater returns from sales as well as use 50% less fertiliser and 30% less pesticide than for conventionally grown vegetables, earning an annual income of $3,000–4,500.
The project stimulated social cohesion, especially in Kenya where farmers met frequently to exchange views on marketing and production strategies. Women particularly benefitted through training and education about the benefits of AIV’s. Following the training, women who previously considered AIVs to be weeds reported that they used them to improve household food security and income. They now perceive AIVs to be nutritious, easily available at little cost, to bridge food gaps during dry periods and offer a source of income without interference from male family members. More than 60% of farmers groups involved in the project were able to penetrate several markets with their AIVs. One farmer, Mama Perina, invested her additional income in growing AIVs, primarily for her own consumption but also to sell to neighbours and traders. Other women farmers are known to spend their additional income on the welfare of their families, including more nutritious food, medicines and schooling.