Yams are an important food in Madagascar. They are usually eaten boiled and provide an important source of carbohydrates, fibre, potassium and a range of micronutrients. While cultivated varieties are available, much of Madagascar’s rural community opt for eating wild yams. Rural families will harvest their own, while more urban communities may buy locally-sourced wild yams. They’re an important food especially in the late dry season “hungry gap”, when other foods like rice have been used up.
However, these yams are disappearing, with people reporting that they need to walk further and further to find yams to harvest. Over 30 yam species in Madagascar are only found there and, based on Kew Madagascar assessments, many of these are likely to continue to decline if no action is taken.
Through funding received from the Darwin Initiative and the April Trust, Kew is working to reverse Malagasy yam declines. We are supporting 85 separate Malagasy rural communities to cultivate edible and threatened wild yam species as crops alongside conserving them in living collections and seed banks. Currently we have 23 species in germplasm collections, 17 banked as seed and 12 in cultivation with communities. In the future, these collections could be used for future crop breeding programmes, pharmaceutical drug discovery or even to reintroduce plants to areas from where they have disappeared.
Lady Wall at one of the sites planting a yam, and sign showing the credit given to the Trust and partner sponsors.
Further information: Kew Madagascar