What Kigali’s open-air markets reveal about achieving food and nutrition security: the role of African indigenous crops

Eugene Baraka, Mary S. Willis, Brice A. Ishimwe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Household dietary diversity in Rwanda remains low and significantly contributes to the double burden of malnutrition. Rwanda has one of the highest under five stunting rates globally, and malnutrition remains one of the most pressing public health issues; therefore, factors that shape food and nutrition security are of utmost concern. Globally, the variety of foods available in open-air markets has been shown to affect dietary diversity. Furthermore, the consumption of indigenous foods can contribute to a diverse diet and improve nutrition status. At present, there are limited data on foods available for purchase in open-air markets in Africa. Therefore, this study was designed to provide data on food availability in the largest open-air markets of Rwanda’s most populated city, Kigali, and to highlight which foods indigenous to Africa can be purchased. Methods: All consumables were inventoried between October and December of 2020 in three open-air markets of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Consumables were organized by the site of domestication and the nutritional contents of some African indigenous crops were compared to similar non-indigenous items. Results: A variety of raw and processed consumables was available in the open-air markets inventoried; however, only 25.8% of available species are indigenous to Africa. All Rwanda’s staples, including sweet potatoes, plantains, beans, maize, banana, and cassava, are endemic to other continents. Indigenous plant species, which are often drought-resistant and more nutritious, for example, Africa’s pineapple fruits (Myrianthus holstii), could not be purchased in Kigali’s open-air markets. Pineapple fruits are richer in iron, vitamin C, protein, and vitamin A than banana, which is the most consumed fruit in Rwanda. Conclusions: Given rapid population growth, limited arable land, and erratic climate patterns, policies to conserve and promote indigenous species, especially those already adapted to harsh environmental conditions, should be enacted in Rwanda. The cultivation of native vegetables and fruits in home gardens, and the conservation of edible wild species, can improve dietary diversity and enhance food and nutrition security across the entire country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalAgriculture and Food Security
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Dietary diversity
  • Food security and nutrition security
  • Indigenous species
  • Malnutrition
  • Open-air markets
  • Rwanda

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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