A number of African scientists here at CHEMRAWN hope to use their chemical expertise to strengthen this old adage.
Gabriel Bwembya, a chemist at the University of Swaziland, reported his efforts to profile various nutrients in indigenous leafy vegetables from Swaziland. Bwembya used high-performance liquid chromatography and atomic absorption spectroscopy to analyze the nutrient content of local greens known as ligusha (Corchorus olitorus), inkhakha (Momordica involucrata), imbuya (Amaranthus spinosus), shuchuza (Bidens pilosa), and umsobo (Solanum nigrum).
He concluded that these greens are a terrific source of vitamin A as well as iron, calcium, and zinc. By spreading the word, Bwembya hopes to get Swazis to eat more of these vegetables, which are cheaper than other vegetable sources of these nutrients.
In Uganda, chemist Vincent Makokh of the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, in Kampala, is using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy to measure levels of the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes. Urban residents in Kampala buy their fruits and vegetables at local markets, where hawkers sell two main varieties of shelf-ripened tomatoes. “We hope to be able to advise residents which tomatoes are more nutritious,” he said.
Finally, O. Tibe and Jo Amarteifio of Botswana College of Agriculture, in Gabarone, reported that their analytical measurements show that several wild indigenous plants—marama bean (Tylosema esculentum), mogose (Bauhinia petersiana), morula (Sclerocarya birrea), and leswe (Ceropegia rendalii)—are an excellent, low cost source of protein. They, like Bwembya and Makokh, are trying to use their results to get Botswanans to eat these vegetables.