Results and DiscussionPlantspecies found in the immediate vicinity of homesteadsA checklist of plant species found inside, or within the immediate vicinityof homesteads, the various communities surveyed are shown in Table 1. Most of the plant species found aredeliberately left for specific purposes, which include food, medicinal,cultural or spiritual purposes. Other purposes include sourcing of constructionmaterials, tools making, and crafts, or as source of cash to satisfy mundanefamily needs like buying detergent or salt.
The plant species that were mostabundant, including Manihotesculenta (Cassava), Musa sapentiumvar. paradisiaca (Plantains) Musa sapentium (banana), Citrus sinensis (orange) and Elaeis guineensis (oil palm), were foundin each of the eight communities surveyed (Table 1). Similarly, M. indica L. (Mango) and Dacryodes edulis L.
(‘native pear’), which are grown fortheir edible fruits, were found in homesteads of seven of the communitiessurveyed. Apart from its edible fruits,mango leaves are also used to treat several ailments including fevers, stomachupsets and lethargy. Nine other plant species were found in six of the communities surveyedin the Egi area of the Niger Delta. Theyinclude Persea americana, Cocos nucifera, Xanthosoma mafaffa, Vernonia amygdalina, Telfairiaoccidentalis, Saccharum officinarum, Ocimum brasilicum, Carica papaya and Ananas comosus.
Thespecies Persea americana (Avocado), which was recently introduced intothe Niger Delta area, and aptly called ‘English Pear’ by the natives, weresighted as lone trees growing in family compounds in the communities. Cocoyam (Xanthosomamafaffa) for its corm, while Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), Ugu(Telferia occidentalis), and Sweet Basil (Ocimum brasilicum), aregrown as vegetables. Also, Saccharum officinarum (Sugarcane) and Cocosnucifera (coconut) are grown for their cane and fruits respectively.Similarly, Ananas comosus L. (Pineaple) and C. papaya L.
(Pawpaw) are planted for fruits and, especially in the case of mango, for medicinalpurposes. Trees (Irvingia gabonensis, ‘bush mango’ and Psidium guajava,Guava), corn (Zea mays) and the herb ‘Scent Leaves’ (Ocimum gratissimum), were seen in five of the eight communitiessurveyed. The bush mangos and guavatrees are grown for fruits, as well as for medicinal purposes.
Scent leaves are used as vegetables formaking soup and as spices for preparing pepper soup, while corn are consumed indifferent forms: roasted or boiled and eaten as snack or prepared in otherforms such as gruel (pap).Eight of the plant species were sighted in three, or less, community,including economically important species such as Garcinia kola, Theobromacacao, Harvea brasiliensis, Dioscorea spp, Anarcardium occidentalis, andIpeoma batatas. Also, some species with underutilized potentials were alsoencountered in the study area and they include Chrysophyllum albidum,Artocarpus communis, Anonna muricate, Terminelia cartappa, Amaranthushybridus and Gnetum africana. A turf of lemon grass was sighted in acompound in the study area, which appeared to be exotic to the area, but theowner was said to have planted it for medicinal purposes.Plant species found in areas outside the immediate vicinity of homesteadsThe plant species encountered in areasoutside the immediate vicinity of homesteads, but within a walking distance, fromthe edge of homestead gardens to the forested areas are shown in Table 1.
These areas comprised of diverse habitat,hence the plant species were segregated into the habitats where they were encountered.The plant habitats in question varied with communities but, basically, fourhabitat types were discerned including forests, fallow lands, riparian andaquatic.A total of twenty five (27) plantspecies were encountered in all the four habitats encountered, ten (10) ofwhich occurred in more than one habitat.
Three species were seen in only the Foresthabitat, as compared to three species that were exclusively seen in AquaticHabitat. Five (5) of twenty-five plant species encountered were seen only inFallow habitat. Similarly, the Riparianhabitat also had five (5) species that were not seen in other habitats.
Among plant species that occurredin more than one habitats Elaeisguineensis Jacq. (Oil Palm tree) was present in three of the four habitatsidentified (i.e., excluding aquatic habitat).
The oil palm trees were also seenwithin the homesteads of in all the communities surveyed. Seven out of thespecies were present in both forest and fallow lands. In the forest habitat,standing plants were seen, while only coppices at various stages of re-growthswere sighted in the fallow lands. Only one species of plant, Anthocleista vogelii Planch., was commonto both Forest and Riparian habitat.
OnlyAlchornea cordifolia (Schum. &Thonn.) Müll. Arg. occurred in both Fallow and Riparian habitats. Gnetum africana, which was seen planted near the homestead, was also encounteredin the forest areas.
Although Okazi is planted in homestead gardens,they grow very slowly and often do not establish or grow well when planted;hence they are mostly harvested from the wild.Local uses of the plant species and their roles in family nutritionIn sub-Saharan Africa, like most of the developing world, andincreasingly even in the developed world, families utilise lands within the immediatevicinities of their houses to grow plants that provide food and nutrition tofamilies (Nwaneka and Chude, 2017). Theliterature is replete with descriptions of the patterns, purposes, andnomenclatures for this practice, but their basic purpose is to provide social,spiritual, cultural and food to their owners (Essien et al., 2013). In the poorer communities, such as insub-Saharan Africa, the neglected plants in the homestead environment provide aform of income security in hard times, and as a source of food/nutrition andmedicine at all times (Ubom, 2012; Nwaneke and Chude, 2017). The plant speciesfound around the homesteads or within family compounds are deliberately leftfor food, medicinal, cultural or spiritual purposes (Essien et al.,2013), as source of materials for construction, tools, crafts or spiritualitems.
In addition, the homesteadenvironment also supplies products that may be exchanged for petty cash tosatisfy mundane family needs like buying soap or salt (Essien et al.,2013).Most of the plant species found in the immediate vicinity of thehomesteads are edible; some are cultivated for their medicinal or spiritualvalues, while others serve multiple purposes.
Many of the species,such as Magnifera indica, Dacryodes edulis, Perseaamericana, Carica papaya, Chrysophyllum albidum and Ananas comosus, are grown mostly for their tastyfruits. The species Persea Americana,locally called ‘English Pear’, is cherished for its plum, creamy and tastyfruit pulp. Chrysophyllumalbidum, known as Udara in local parlance, is grown for its tasty fruits with high commercial value thatconstitute a veritable source of rural family income (Ureigho and Ekeke, 2010).These fruit trees are veritable sources of minerals and vitamins; some of them cansupply the recommended dietary average, especially for children.
Bitterleaf (Vernonia amygdalina), Ugu (Telferia occidentalis), SweetBasil (Ocimum brasilicum), ‘Spinach’ (Amaranthus hybridus) andOkazi (Gnetum africana) which are consumed vegetables and their leavesare used as soup condiments (Belewu et al., 2009). The leaves ofOkazi plant are rich in aspartic acid, dietary fibre, proteins andvitamins. They are also rich sources ofessential amino acids and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron(Ndoumou et al., 2014).
Amaranthus hybridus is reported to supplythe body with appreciable amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals (Kadiri and Olawoye, 2015).The species Xanthosoma mafaffa (Cocoyam), Manihot esculentis(Cassava), Dioscorea spp (yams) and Artocarpus cuminis (Breadfruit),are valuable for their starchy corms, roots and fruits respectively. Thecocoyam corms can be eaten boiled or, as it is the case in the study area, asthickening for making special native soups. Cassava is well known for itsstarchy roots and is locally processed into garri or fufu (loi-loi), but canalso be industrially processed into starch, high grade syrup, flour, chips orflakes (Adeniji, 2013). Locally, the breadfruitis processed into starchy foods, while the seeds are roasted and consumed assnacks, but they are staple foods in various places on the Pacific Islands(ref). Breadfruit can also be processed into various menus, bread flour or asnutritious feeds for broilers. Although the Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) has knowncommercial value as source of sugar, they are not grown on commercial scale inthe Niger Delta.
Sugarcane are grown for consumption as snacks, hence only afew stands were seen around homesteads. Similarly, Cocos nucifera (coconut),are also not grown on any appreciable scale in the study area. They are mostly grown for aesthetics todecorate the landscape around homesteads, but their fruits are also consumed assnacks.The bush mangos and guava trees are grown for their fruits, as well asfor medicinal purposes. The pulp of the bush mango is consumed fresh, while theseeds (Ogbono) are used as thickener in preparing the Ogbono soup, a populardelicacy in the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general. In southwest Nigeria, almostthree-third of the population consume bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis) as fresh fruits or as soup condiments (Osewaet al.
, 2013). Scent leaves are usedas vegetables for making soup and as spices for preparing pepper soup, whilecorn seeds are roasted or boiled and eaten as snack, or the raw seeds are usedin making ‘akamu’ (pap).Some of the species have multiple uses: e.g., Vernonia amygdalina andTelferia occidentalis are used for medicinal purposes, including servingas therapeutic supplementary nutrition for humans. Apart from its edible fruits, mango leavesare also used to treat several ailments including fevers, stomach upsets andlethargy.
Pawpaw, bitter kola, are usedto treat several ailments including fevers, stomach upset, lethargy and aslaxatives. In addition tothese species have commercial, medicinal or food values, some species also havespiritual/cultural values. For example, Dioscorea spp signify fertilityand power and its harvest mark the beginning of the year in an annual ceremonycalled the New Yam festival. The tree Cola nitida produces the kola nuts(fruits), which are consumed as stimulants and constitute an important sourceof cash. Most importantly, kola nuts arerespected and they play important socio-cultural roles in the lives of not onlythe Egi people but the entire Nigeria. No traditional ceremony such as wedding,child naming, funeral or even when visiting; is complete without offerings ofkola nut. The ‘bitter cola’ (Garcina kola) seedsare harvested for consumption as stimulant or sold for cash income. Also,fruits of Garcinia kola are used medicine against several ailmentsassociated with respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems; while groundbitter cola seeds are used as snake repellents and to ward off evil spirits.
Bitterkola is also taken on account of poverty or during periods of food shortages.For instance, in a rural location in Southwest Nigeria, 36.7% of the peopleconfessed to have consumed bitter kola (Garciniakola) as food during hard times (Osewa atal., 2013).Species with future potentials in ensuring local food securityAmongst the species identifiedwithin the study area, some are not only underutilised, but have greatpotentials for improving the food security situation in the study area,especially during period of distress occasioned by climate change. Apart from provision of food and medicine,the underutilised tree species can also contribute to climate mitigation bycapturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their biomass. The underutilised species found in the studyarea are shown in Table 3 and they include trees and shrubs, and most of themhave multiples uses.
However, this paperfocuses on their uses as food and, their potentials to enhance the resilienceof the poor rural inhabitants in the face of climate change thereby ensuringfood and nutrition security.Breadfruit (Artocarpus communis Forst) is an underutilised plant in Nigeria,but provides staple diet in many tropical countries, especially in southPacific and the Caribbean (Tijani et al.,2017).
The annual production of breadfruit in estimated to be about 10 millionmetric tonnes, which is less than one-tenth of Nigeria’s potential productioncapacity (Bakare et al., 2015). It can be cultivated using root cuttings, butits yield is limited by lack of improved high yielding cultivars. Thebreadfruit is a high value, nutritive fruit that can be processed into diversetypes of dishes (Tijani et al.,2017).
The fruits can also be used toproduce high quality composite flour that can be composited with wheat flourand used to make bread, biscuit and other confectionaries (Amusa et al., 2002; Bakare et al., 2015).Annona muricata, locally called sour-sop, is native to warmest partsof the Americas and it is widely distributed across the warm areas of the worldincluding Nigeria. The fruits of Annonamuricata are edible and can be processed intojuice, fruit nectar, smoothes, candies, or used as flavouring for ice cream.
Sour-sopis reported to contain relatively high concentrations of dietary minerals (Ca,Mg, K, Fe), hence can provide human bodies with this minerals (Moghadamtousi,2015).Chrysophyllum albidum produce tasty and fleshy fruitscalled ‘Udara’ that are eaten as snack that it is very popular across the NigerDelta. Udara is reported to contain appreciable amounts of Vitamins (especiallyA and C), thiamine and riboflavin (Ureigho and Ekeke, 2010). The fruit also contains extractable juice thatcan be used in making soft beverages, or fermented to produce wine and otheralcoholic beverages (Ajewole and Adeyeye, 1991).
In addition, seeds of Udara contain edible oilswith high unsaturated fatty acids; the consumption of which can reduce the riskof heart diseases.