About the field guide and aimed users
This field guide aims to facilitate plant identification and enable field workers to make comparisons across different areas in Ethiopia where people may have different eating habits and knowledge of wild-food plants. The field guide is kept as a database at the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UN-EUE) office in Addis Ababa and is updated regularly. For each plant, besides its general physical description, the specific information on consumption, palatability and preparation is central and most important. This is also the part that makes this guide different from other similar field guides.
UN-EUE would like to encourage active contributions such as samples of additional wild-food plants for inclusion in the present field guide and it is hoping to obtain feed back from interested parties (Click on the Contact Info link on to reach the UN-EUE office) .
One of the difficulties encountered is the confusion some of the vernacular names create because different species may have identical vernacular names. This is because farmers or users of wild-food plants use a different classification system or similar species that are prepared, mixed with other foodstuff and consumed in the same way, may all be given the same vernacular name.
The present field guide is incomplete in many ways. For some of the species only very little information is yet available. Formal identification of some specimens has yet to take place and scientific names of some species are still missing. Furthermore, for some wild-food species, especially seasonal herbs that were not in season by the time of the field survey, only an oral description could be collected from key informants. Many plant species could not be photographed because the specimen found in the field were not representative or simply not available. Some photographs do not have the required quality, therefore do not tell much about the plant species, and hence may have to be replaced by more appropriate pictures that may be taken during forthcoming field missions. The build-up of this field guide is an on-going process whereby data and species will continuously be added, improving its content and its scientific value. Despite all the mentioned shortcomings of the present version, we feel the need to share the information we collected with other interested parties to be able to improve and gain more knowledge on the importance of wild-food plants and the potential some of them may hide. This potential waits to be discovered and improved so that one or the other wild-food plant may become a future indigenous staple food crop that may ease food insecurity in some of the most vulnerable areas in Ethiopia.
The present field guide is primarily aimed at field workers, researchers, development and environmental specialists involved or interested in food security issues at all levels of intervention, i.e. international, national, regional, local.
The species descriptions and listing
Each registered wild-food plant species has been categorized and listed in one of the 4 proposed wild-food plant categories1: (1) typical 'famine-food' plants, (2) 'wild-food' plants with 'famine-food' components, (3) 'wild-food' plants attracting additional consumer categories during food shortage periods, and (4) on-farm food crops with 'famine-food' components2. The four wild-food plant categories represent at the same time the most important criteria for the classification of a species. When investigating wild-food plants, interest is focused on what part(s) of the plant is (are) edible, at what time of the year and for how long. Furthermore, preparation method(s), palatability, eventual consumption side effects, and the food's nutritional content are central and of crucial interest. Unfortunately little research has been done on nutritional value of wild-food and therefore information collected is limited in this field guidebook.
a) Vernacular, English and scientific names of listed species In the field, all species were registered by their vernacular names known by farmers and pastoralists using the species. Thereafter, the collected species were handed over to the National Herbarium at Addis Ababa University for identification and taxonomic classification. There are limitations to the usefulness of vernacular names because there are no standard spellings in the various languages (with the exception of maybe Amharic and Oromiffa languages) spoken in the areas where wild-food species were collected, and because the spellings are based on phonetic interpretations of the names. Some of the species could be identified with the help of other useful botanical publications, i.e. Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993; Edwards et al., (eds) 1995; Edwards et al., (eds) 1997; Hedberg & Edwards, (eds) 1989; Hedberg & Edwards, (eds) 1995; Stroud & Parker 1989. For all species that could be identified with the help of these publications, there is a footnote indication for each of these species.
b) General description
We tried to describe collected species as we found them in the field. Nevertheless, for many plants a proper scientific description is missing. Where indicated with a footnote, the general description of the species has been drawn from one of the sources already mentioned above.
c) Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
This descriptive part of each wild-food plant description is central. Herein all available information around the species food production for human consumption has been recorded. The following information should ideally be available for each of the documented plant species3: (1) edible part(s); (2) collection practice, who collects and prepares; (3) preparation methods and time needed for cooking; (4) palatability, unpleasant side effects and eventual toxicity produced by the edible parts; (5) who is consuming edible part(s) of the plant and during which periods, i.e. normal times versus food shortage periods; (6) availability of the edible part(s) in the course of the different seasons, i.e. dry season versus rainy season and before - during - after - main crop harvest; (7) eventual additional reasons for classifying the species into its wild-food plant category.
All the above mentioned information, if available, can lead in a later stage to the selection, screening and bio-physical improvement of potential wild-food plant species and varieties that may become promising future indigenous food crops especially in fragile and food insecure areas. For the time being and with the available information on hand, this idea remains wishful thinking and a vision for the future.
d) Nutritional value
All the information on nutritional value of collected wild-food plants has been obtained from secondary sources found in a variety of publications listed in the annexed literature list. Information on the nutritional value is only mentioned for those species for which information exists from secondary sources.
For wild-food plants that could not be properly identified, only the agroecological zone where the species was actually found during the survey is indicated. For identified species we added additional information found mainly in Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993 and Stroud & Parker, 1989. Ethiopia has an extensive and uniquely diversified Agroecology that has in our view best been classified and mapped in the 'Agroecological Map of Ethiopia' (EMA & GDE, 1995). Agroecological information therein is based on observations over the last 20 years throughout Ethiopia. We used this map and the information therein to identify and classify the sample locations in terms of the agroecological belt they are placed in.
f) Propagation method(s) and management
The information on propagation methods and management of the species has partly been collected from farmers and key informants on the spot and/or has been added and completed from various publications, i.e. Bekele-Tesemma et al. (1993), Maundu et al. (1999), Katende et al. (1999) and Schippers (2000). The propagation method seedlings indicates that farmers raise the species purposely on-farm in a rudimentary nursery. Propagation by wildlings means that farmers know of the utility of a certain plant species of which they collect and transplant wild seedlings from the bush into their farm. Direct sowing indicates that a certain plant species is suitable for being propagated by directly sowing the seeds at suitable place on farm. Propagation by cuttings and root suckers, two common vegetative multiplication techniques, indicate that the plant species is recommended for these techniques and that farmers themselves practice and prefer the technique. Even though the ability to coppice is not a propagation method per se, but rather a management practice, it is still indicated under propagation methods for the plant species for which it suits. Current management techniques used by farmers are briefly mentioned. Usually a certain management technique is applied for example to reduce negative side effects such as shading of a tree on adjacent crops etc. Most common management practices for trees are for example copping, lopping and pollarding.
g) Sample location(s)
The approximate location of the place from where samples and specimen were found and collected, is indicated by either a geographical (e.g. Segen River) or an administrative (e.g. Jarso Kebele, Konso Special Woreda) reference or both references together.
Under this category, information is listed that does not necessarily fall under the above listed descriptive categories, such as information concerning additional uses of the described species, i.e. medicinal, firewood etc. or any unusual or unique qualities or characteristic. Some information on traditional values and proverbs existing within certain communities on the listed plant species are also found under this category.
1 For definition and classification description refer to section 'General Description of Wild-Food Plants' on the Field Guide link in the left hand column.
2 For some species, the available information is not sufficient to allow a classification into one of the four categories. Therefore, please see the non categorized section in the Field Guide on your lefts as this is a special section for temporary non-classified or non-identified wild-food plant species.
3 Unfortunately, mostly only part of this information can be documented for time being. For the second version of this guide we are hoping to accumulate and file more accurate and useful information as well as to complete or at least to beef up the many files with unfortunately only very meagre information of very limited use.
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