Local communities all over Africa use plants of the Solanaceae family for various purposes.
We aim to compile a comprehensive database on the uses, production, processing and informal market systems for the various crops, so as to enhance their value, as well as promote their use.
We are taking steps to address the knowledge gaps on the basic biology of these species. We realize that there has been limited research, and there is need to undertake more comprehensive studies on the cytogenetics, biochemical and molecular components, and develop molecular tools and proper ontology for the future characterization of African Solanaceae plants.
Recognizing the lack of expertise in Africa for advanced research that would enhance knowledge of the African solanaceous species; we note, in particular, the need to build capacity in taxonomy, the Omics (genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics), human intervention studies, and biochemistry.
Building infrastructure and developing relevant curriculum at various research and higher learning institutes will also significantly enhance the utilization of these crops and promote their contribution to poverty alleviation and food security.
Nutrition and Health:
Unknown to many, some African nightshades, including Solanum scabrum and Solanum villosum are edible and very nutritious with medicinal and industrial value.
We share the concern on narrowing food diversity and the recognise the potential role of vegetables in combating micronutrient deficiencies, which call for renewed research interest in underutilized nutritious vegetables such as those of the Solanaceae family. We would, therefore, like to play a part in determining and documenting the micronutrient and bioactive components of these plants, as well as establish systems for human intervention and social economics studies.
Seed systems are an important aspect of improving crop production and will be an invaluable component of enhancing the utilization of African solanaceous crops. We would like to identify relevant stakeholders, if any, in seed production; seed markets, quality management and regulation, as well as determine optimum seed management conditions for the benefit of the producers and consumers.
Beyond the assumption that many local communities have been utilizing these plants for a long period of time, we are asking ourselves the following questions: Can we also demonstrate that there is real demand for them in both formal and informal markets? Are there any known product development efforts in the region and or elsewhere? What are the post-harvest and industrial applications of these crops? What are the consumer preferences and how can those preferences be linked to crop improvement?