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Friday, 20 May 2016

Cracking the nut: Researchers explore Bambara groundnut

RESEARCHERS: Drs Jane Okafor and Bukola Adedayo are exploring the potential of the Bambara groundnut RESEARCHERS: Drs Jane Okafor and Bukola Adedayo are exploring the potential of the Bambara groundnut

The uses of a widely grown, yet underutilized African indigenous legume species is being explored at CPUT.

Drs Jane Okafor and Bukola Adedayo, two postdoctoral fellows based at the Food Science and Technology Department are currently exploring the medicinal potential of the Bambara groundnut and its products (milk and yoghurt) as a functional food in health and disease and its relationship to indigenous knowledge systems.

The study forms part of a broader CPUT exploration into the potential of the Bambara groundnut as a food security crop and nutraceutical that could be utilized in functional food, pharmaceutical industry/medicine, which is spearheaded by Prof Victoria Jideani.

Okafor, a researcher from the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi in Nigeria, says the African continent has a long and rich history of communities using indigenous plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes.

“Many people claim that various crops like the Bambara groundnut have medicinal properties, however, there is no scientific proof to validate these claims that are based on undocumented indigenous or traditional knowledge,” she says.

Okafor says in parts of South Africa, communities who grow or have access to the Bambara groundnut are using it as a food as well as a medicinal source, hailing it as a remedy for diarrhea, nausea, eye disease as well as morning sickness in pregnant women.

To validate these claims, Okafor together with Adedayo, a researcher from the Federal University of Technology Akure in Nigeria, will explore the phytochemical components, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of the Bambara groundnut and its therapeutic application in specific disease condition.

Their study, which is funded by the National Research Foundation, will focus on the areas of KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, where communities widely grow and make use of this legume species.

“If we can back these claims with scientific proof, then more people can make use of it,” says Okafor, adding that it will also bring about the documentation of the indigenous knowledge associating the Bambara groundnut with medicinal benefits/values.

Although widely grown in Africa and easily available, Adedayo says this indigenous legume species is an underutilised food crop.

“Many people do not know about this crop. Currently it is only subsistence farmers growing it,” she says.

Adedayo says they hope the outcome of their study will boost the profile of the Bambara groundnut, as well as its potential as a crop that can contribute to food and nutrition security in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.

“Apart from being an indigenous crop, it has a lot of advantages over other crops,” she says.

“It doesn’t need a lot of water and as a result it grows easily in arid regions.”

Okafor and Adedayo’s work will contribute to the body of work already in progress on the Bambara groundnut at CPUT.

Currently Jideani along with a researcher Claudine Diedericks hold patents for the Bambara groundnut insoluble and soluble fibres.

Jideani with researcher Yvonne Murevanhema have also patented a probiotic yoghurt-like beverage that is produced from a vegetable milk product, tailor-made from the Bambara groundnut



Written by Candes Keating

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Provides coverage for the Engineering and Applied Sciences Faculties; the Bellville and Wellington Campuses, and research and innovation news.