|About the field guide and aimed
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
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
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
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.