30 April 2003

Uganda: Nakati is a Moneymaker

Kampala — There is more money in nakati (an African vegetable whose scientific name is solanum macrocarpon) than most farmers think.

This has been revealed in Dr. Bukenya Zilaba's research work. In his work, the researcher, who is a lecturer in the department of botany at Makerere University says varieties which produce high yields have been identified.

The leaves are the ones commonly eaten but the fruits can be eaten as well, Bukenya reveals. He also says roots have medicinal value.

Among the high yielding varieties identified is a type commonly called nakati omuzungu. It differs from the local nakati as its leaves and fruits are larger.

It can also be harvested continuously for over a year. In Uganda, only leaves are eaten but in other places like Ghana, Europe and Asia, people feed on the fruits as well.

To minimise loss of vitamins during cooking, the vegetable is best cooked by wrapping it in banana leaves and steaming. Currently, nakati omuzungu is out of stock at Nakasero market, Johnson Sabiti, a vegetable seller, says. Since this variety has larger leaves than the local one, when it is available, it costs more.

The vegetable is recommended for pregnant women because it contains colic acid and iron. it prepares expectant mothers for good child delivery. Bukenya advises Ugandans to eat these fruits since they are not poisonous as many people think.

The vegetable grows best in areas that receive little rain but it also grows around forests and grasslands.

It can be planted by broadcasting its seeds on the ground and irrigating and within 40 days, the leaves are ready to be harvested.

It takes 60 days from planting to fruiting and 20 days for fruits to mature. The fruits are harvested for more than five months, Bukenya says.

nakati omuzungu is commercially cultivated at the district farm institutes like Mukono, at a small scale, for demonstration purposes.

To ensure that you continue harvesting it for a long time you need to trim it. A few farmers have tried to grow the vegetable for subsistence rather than for sale. The vegetable seems to have a high potential as a commercial vegetable in the country although at the moment it is under-utilised, Bukenya observes.

He says the crop may in future play a significant part in the supply of vitamins and minerals in the Ugandan diet if government puts more effort in cultivating it.

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