African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”


Unlocking the potential of Bambara groundnut

Dr Nomathemba Majola

The dire state of malnutrition and stunted growth in South Africa prompted Dr Nomathemba Majola’s decision to focus her PhD research on the Bambara groundnut, an indigenous African legume that is rich in nutrients. 

Majola is from the Free State province of South Africa, and she first joined the ACCI in 2017, when she did a master’s degree funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). She says the current food systems in tropical and subtropical regions “depend on  cultivating and using a few commodity crop species. This causes most indigenous crop species, including  Bambara groundnut, to remain neglected by researchers and underutilised in the value chains”. She says unlocking Bambara groundnut’s potential as an essential multipurpose food and cash crop will enhance food and nutritional security in developing countries.

In addition, South Africa’s nutritional deficiency and stunted growth are widespread, especially in rural communities. “There is rampant malnutrition, due to over-reliance on starch-based cereal porridges, tubers and roots as staple food crops,” she says.

“Motivated by these challenges, my study resulted in the search for inexpensive and reliable alternative sources of minerals and proteins of plant origin, which is achieved by introducing Bambara groundnut, as an essential multipurpose food and cash crop, to enhance food and nutritional security in developing countries.”

Her study documented the progress made on Bambara groundnut production, utilisation and genetic improvement in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), to discern key production constraints, genetic resources and analysis, breeding methods and gains on yield and nutrition to guide breeding.

Majola says she dealt with her huge workload by drawing up and sticking to a strict timetable, as well as staying on top of regular presentations and progress reports. She also include regular holidays and family visits to maintain a balance.

Majola thanked her supervisors, Professor Hussein Shimelis and Dr Abe Gerrano for their guidance and suppor, as well as Dr Jacob Mashilo, Dr Amelework Assefa, the Agricultural Research Council and Vegetable Industrial and Medicinal Plants.

She is now working as a quantitative genetics lecturer at the University of Pretoria, and plan to pursue a research career.

Words: Shelagh McLoughlin

Photo: Supplied

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