Conservation and Sustainable Use of Taro Colocasia esculenta

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CASE STUDY: Conservation and Sustainable Use of Taro (Colocasia esculenta and Xanthosoma sp) in Makoni district.
Mr. Kudzai Kusena
(Agricultural scientist)

Curator National Genebank of Zimbabwe
Republic of Zimbabwe

Taro is tuber crop that grows well in wetlands. The tubers are edible and they are prime sources of carbohydrates in areas where they are produced in Zimbabwe. Usually they are used as bread substitute just like sweet potatoes. However there has been a decline in production due to erratic pattern of rainfall resulting in poor wetlands and most farmers perceive it as an inferior crop. This resulted in fast erosion of taro genetic diversity in Zimbabwe. Due to dry weather conditions only drought tolerant species were now been naturally selected for the next season while most of the germplasm would have dried out. However, farmers in Makoni district devised technologies for bridging the dry season gap. The first method was that farmers were burying taro tubers/suckers underground where they would constantly monitor moisture levels and the second method was rarely used, where farmers were packing taro germplasm in sacks and keep them in their cool designed granaries and they would also constantly monitor moisture levels. However, it was discovered that both methods used were susceptible to fungal infection, rotting and desiccation. As a mitigation strategy the National Genebank of Zimbabwe established a taro field Genebank in Makoni district, where the local farmers are solely responsible for day-to-day management of the genebank. The genebank has been running for the past two seasons, and it is now a main source of germplasm for the farmers in makoni. However the loss of diversity in taro also lead to loss of indigenous knowledge systems. Long time ago there were a lot of products that were produced by farmers for food and medicinal purposes. Therefore in Makoni district there has been some efforts to re-introduce value addition and market linkage. At the moment very poor market linkage structures exist and very little value addition is underway.
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