Our investigation and expertise areas revolved around the sustainable use of African horticultural species such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and medicinal plants. Horticultural crops generate high economic returns per unit of input (e.g. land, water, labor). A prime example is urban agriculture which is developed in many African countries to procure fresh fruit and vegetable products to city dwellers. The value-addition to horticultural crops generates employment in the related agri-businesses and further down the commodity chain from the producer to the consumer to a greater degree than any other agricultural commodity. For instance, results of a Darwin Initiative project carried out in Benin indicated that the income generated per unit of area of Launaea taraxacifolia production (a traditional leafy vegetable) is higher than the income generated from maize production. Thus, horticultural production has a comparative advantage where farm size is small. It is very rewarding as it directly addresses poverty and food security issues in both urban and rural areas of the developing world and particularly it offers new market opportunities for the many subsistence farmers in tropical Africa and agribusiness entrepreneurs.
Plant Genetic resources
Plant genetic resources (PGR) support our livelihoods. For instance, the healthcare system in Africa is still supported by medicinal plants that more than 80% of Africans still use. Studies on sustainable utilization and conservation of plant genetic resources are core interests to our investigations. We mainly focus on the use of indigenous fruits and vegetables as well as medicinal plants, and pay a particular attention to conservation of NUS (Neglected an Underutilized Species) and Crop Wild Relatives (CWR). These resources contribute to sustain livelihoods in Africa and despite their importance very limited data are available to support policies and development programmes. Our investigations are built toward generating new knowledge that demonstrates how indigenous plant resources can be used to overcome food security and other basic needs in sub-Saharan Africa.
Phylogenetics & Phylogeography
The evolutionary relationships among a number of plant group and specifically the intraspecific relationships among Citrullus, Lagenaria and other economic plants of tropical West Africa are being investigated. This is combined with the investigations on the colonization routes of these resources. Ultimately, we intend to demonstrate how wild plants relatives share ancestral genes resources and how this can be used in plant breeding
Traditional knowledge systems
Traditional knowledge systems help conserve plant genetic resources. Although this is well known, it is still unclear how the evolution of these systems affects conservation and utilization of plant resources. More specifically, effects of urbanization, sociolinguistic memberships, gender, age, and literacy among other factors on knowledge systems have been rarely assessed. Our investigations place this issue at the centre of the PGR use and conservation strategies.
Ecological Intensification of Agriculture
Transition from conventional to ecologically-intensified production systems in urban and rural areas has been at the centre of many scientific debates. However, the place and roles of plant genetic resources in achieving sustainable and productive ecological agriculture are overlooked. Our research and training group is currently investigating ways and approaches to model how the selection and use of specific genetic resources (animal and plant) help increase the production of traditional farming systems for food security and a healthy production environment in sub Saharan Africa.
Seed germination ecology and seed science
Conservation of plant genetic resources requires a sharp knowledge of plant storage behavior and seed germination ecology. This is a prerequisite for in situ and ex situ conservation. Unfortunately, the seed system of many indigenous fruits and vegetables is still unreliable with scanty knowledge of how to germinate or conserve them. Our research programmes focus on selected high value fruits and vegetables species for which seed germination ecology is being investigated.