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Editorial: Underutilized crops and their potentials

Editorial: Underutilized crops and their potentials

WE WERE reading through some informational websites and chanced on the Food and Agriculture Organization's take on underutilized crops in Africa.

While the Philippines is not as in dire a strait as Africa, there's still a lot of lessons we can glean from what they are doing there, considering that we have our own share of underutilized crops, maybe more than they have.

Like moringa or malunggay. We all know it's nutritious. We all have that in our tinola or mongo or law-uy. Those who have Ilocano roots have the young pods in their dinengdeng. The more entrepreneurial are making moringa powder and moringa soap from it. But moinga is more than that.

Aside from the various ways of cooking moringa leaves and seeds, all its other parts have other uses; from making an organic blue color dye from its wood to ben oil extracted from its flowers for arthritic pain, rheumatic and gouty joints, and the seed powder as water purifier. Scientific studies on health benefits of moringa alone run to more than 50. All these can be read from stuartxchange.com, that website of Godofredo Stuart, who in his lifetime compiled a comprehensive database of more than a thousand Philippine medical plants.

Beyond moringa, our indigenous peoples know more, even having a roster of wild plants, fruits, and root crops that sustain them in times of drought and the in-between months -- or when harvest is long past and the next harvest is not yet in the horizon.

Beyond just the culture and the dances of the indigenous peoples, this is indigenous and endangered knowledge that needs to be studied and documented so that we can look them up and use them as our ancestors did.

As the FAO reported, "Also known as ‘neglected and underutilized', ‘minor' or ‘promising' crops, orphan crops have been overlooked by research, extension services and policy makers; governments rarely allocate resources for their promotion and development. That results in farmers planting them less often, reduced access to high quality seeds, and loss of traditional knowledge."