A survey of non-conventional plant items consumed during periods of food scarcity by low income groups in Atra village of Khulna district, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a small developing country with a population surpassing 150 million and little industrial infrastructure. Agriculture still forms the backbone of the country's economy and the majority of the people live in the 86,000 villages spread throughout the country. There are only four cities within the country, the capital Dhaka being the only mega-city. Although Bangladesh is achieving around 6% GDP growth per year and is on the way of fulfilling a number of the Millennium Development Goals, a vast section of the population, particularly the rural and the urban slum population live under abject poverty. At least 40% of the population live in poverty, and 25% of them are classified to be extremely poor (Holmes et al. 2008). The poverty threshold has been put at an income of less than US$ 1 per day, and it is widely believed that much more of both the rural and urban population does not meet this poverty level income. As a consequence, the caloric intake per person per day is also low, being only 2,122 kilocalories per person per day, as estimated in 2005 (Japan Bank for International Cooperation, 2007). Although poverty is ubiquitously present within the country, incidences of poverty are highest in Khulna Division (Japan Bank for International Cooperation, 2007). A number of factors contribute to this poverty; among them are adverse weather conditions leading to periodic floods or drought, lack of transportation infrastructure, illiteracy, chronic energy crisis which hampers industrial development, and chronic labor unrests (Agricultural Development Bank, 2005).
Land ownership is another factor; 25.2% of people living under extreme poverty are landless, while another 39.2% people owns less than 0.05 acre of land (Japan Bank for International Cooperation, 2007). Since the population is rural, lack of land ownership compels households to work on other people's land as agricultural laborers. Demand for agricultural laborer is not constantly high but peaks only during sowing and harvesting times. At other times of the year, these people are workless and suffer from lack of income leading to food insecurity. At the same time, being situated in rural areas, these people lack the opportunity of finding suitably paid jobs contributing to the level of the unemployed. As a result, these people suffer from food shortages and malnutrition as well as malnutrition-related diseases. Lack of employment in rural areas cause massive migrations to the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka, where again the people have to do menial jobs under low pay, with inadequate food intake, and living in urban slums under totally unhygienic conditions. It has been documented that women in rural Bangladesh suffer from chronic energy deficiency, which stems from inadequate intake of calories, and this is more prevalent among the rural poor (Ahmed et al. 1998). Women and children are more vulnerable to poverty; the former not only has heavy household chores to perform each day, but also by convention, eats only after male members of the family have been adequately fed. In a survey conducted among 383 pregnant women in poor urban areas of the country, it was observed that 40% of the women were anemic (Ahmed et al. 2003). Moreover, rural poverty has a seasonal dimension in Bangladesh. The wet season with torrential downpours are the causes of heavy flooding, leading to submerging of vast tracts of the country. This annual floods lead to shortages of food even among the affluent landowners and contribute to poverty with consequential lack of adequate intake of staple food items.
The staple food of Bangladesh people is rice, which depending on income level, is taken with vegetables, lentils, fish and meat. During times of food scarcity (which depending on income and land ownership) can be chronic as well as acute, the rural people particularly depend on non-conventional plant items as well as snails and mollusks for their nutritional needs and to satiate their hunger. We have previously documented a number of non-conventional items (mainly plants) consumed during times of food scarcity (Jahan et al. 2010; Biswas and Rahmatullah, 2011; Islam et al. 2011; Paul et al. 2011; Rahmatullah et al. 2011). The objective of this present study was to document the non-conventional plant items consumed by the low income people of Atra village in Khulna district (falling within Khulna Division) of Bangladesh during times of food scarcity.
Materials and Methods
The village of Atra in Khulna district was selected following a preliminary survey of various villages in Khulna district to determine as to which village had a substantial number of poor households and who consumed non-conventional plant items during times of food scarcity. Following selection of Atra village, a survey was made of the village households, and households identified who acknowledged that they had low incomes (at or below the poverty level income of US$ 1 per day) and had to survive on non-conventional plant items during times of inadequate traditional food intake. The households were then interviewed (particularly the head of the household and his wife) as to what plant items they consumed, which can be classified as non-conventional. Interviews were conducted with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and an open-ended interview method where the persons interviewed were allowed to speak at large on their incomes, food availability, non-conventional plant items consumed, and places from where these plant items were collected. Interviews were conducted in Bengali, the language being spoken by both interviewers and those who were interviewed. The persons who were interviewed were then requested to take the interviewers to places from where they usually collected their non-conventional edible plant items. Plant specimens as pointed out by the interviewed persons were then collected and brought back to be identified at the Bangladesh National Herbarium at Dhaka.
Results and Discussion
Most of the people of Atra village were observed to be poor. Very few people owned land above 1 acre per family. The landless people had to depend on the landowners for providing them jobs, which essentially consisted of being agricultural laborers. Even people owning around 1 acre of land admitted that due to seasonal variations and crop failures they had to become occasionally dependent on non-conventional plant items, at least to supplement their daily intake of rice. The poorest section of the Atra village population mentioned that they were dependent on non-conventional edible plant items almost throughout the whole year.
The major cereal diet of the Atra people was rice, which was eaten following boiling, with lentils, vegetables, fish or meat. Meat was eaten even by the affluent households only on several days in a year, these days being festive occasions or arrival of guests. Among meat items, poultry was eaten most frequently followed by beef and then mutton. Fish was cultivated by some landowners who has built ponds on their lands as well as caught from a nearby river. The village had adjoining marshy lands in which small fish could be found and caught and which were also the habitat of a number of non-conventional edible aquatic and semi-aquatic plants. Lentils and vegetables were the major ingredients taken with rice. When rice was available, the poorer households could not afford even lentils or conventional vegetables, but ate rice garnished with slices of onion, or more often, with one or two hot peppers. In these cases, rice was usually put in water following cooking and then the whole thing was taken with onions and hot peppers. The affluent households used spices in their vegetable, lentil, fish and meat preparations along with salt and cooking oil; the poor households used essentially salt and a little oil in their vegetable and lentil dishes.
It was observed that the poor households consumed a total of 36 plant species during times of food scarcity. These plant species were distributed into 25 families. The Fabaceae family contributed the largest number of species at 4, while the Araceae and the Arecaceae family contributed 3 plants each. The various plant species consumed were collected from marshy lands, ponds, fallow lands, land beside roadsides, and the wild. Essentially, the village did not have any wild (forested areas); wild means that these plants grew untended in empty places and were not owned by anybody. One plant part, namely fruits of Nypa fruticans were collected from banks of rivulets flowing by the village, where groves of this plant could be found plentifully.
The Araceae family plants usually grew wild near or within marshy areas. Some households would plant a few of these plants around empty parts of the land where the house stood, but the usual habitat of these plants was areas where the soil had more moisture. This was especially true for Typhonium trilobatum. Amorphophallus campanulatus could be found in groves of coconut or betel nut palms, where they grew untended. The tubers of this plant can cause irritation in the throat; as a result, although the tubers are consumed throughout Bangladesh, this is done occasionally. However, the stems of this plant are not consumed at all during normal times and are not sold commercially. Phoenix sylvestris was both cultivated for its sap from which molasses was made, but also could be found in groves or as scattered palms on lands not owned by anybody. During times of food scarcity, the poorer people would gather fruits from these untended plants. During winter, the sap of this plant was collected to be taken in the juice form or to be converted into molasses.
Ipomoea aquatica was usually collected from the sides of ponds, ditches filled with water, or marshes. The plant is occasionally eaten in Bangladesh as a vegetable, but is considered an inferior variety of vegetable and consumed more by the poorer people of the cities and villages. It grows profusely and was collected quite easily by the poor households of Atra village. The flower sepals of Dillenia indica do not form a part of the usual diet of the people of Bangladesh; their more common uses are taking them in the form of chutney or pickles. In these forms, they are mostly taken for their perceived medicinal values. The seeds of Cajanus cajan are consumed as a lentil soup in Bangladesh but mostly by the poor people; they are considered as an inferior variety of lentil compared to 'masoor' (Lens culinaris) or 'mung' (Vigna radiata), which are the lentils usually consumed. The fruits of Tamarindus indica are taken usually in the pickled form or added to a dish to impart taste; the leaves of this plant are not consumed at all except during times of food scarcity. In fact, consumption of leaves of this plant was a new finding not previously observed in our earlier surveys. Other new findings of non-conventional plant parts included consumption of fruits of Daemonorops jenkinsianus and Nypa fruticans, seeds of Terminalia catappa, leaves of Coccinia cordifolia, fruits of Pithecellobium dulce, flowers of Sesbania grandiflora, and fruits of Flacourtia indica.
Consumption of non-conventional edible plants is not a phenomenon exclusive to Bangladesh, but is practiced by low income people, or people suffering from food scarcity in various parts of the world, particularly Africa. The people of Western Sahel in Africa have been reported to depend upon a number of wild plants as their food source, and this dependency increases during shortages of staple diet under conditions like drought (Cook et al. 2000). In fact, quite often, these non-conventional plants growing in the wild have good or even superior nutritional qualities than conventionally eaten crops. A number of wild plants consumed by the inhabitants of Niger in Africa have been shown to possess good or excellent qualities of proteins, amino acids, minerals, and essential fatty acids (Cook et al. 2000; Freiberger et al. 1998; Sena et al. 1998). Of the 24 indigenous plants consumed by the population of Burkina Faso in Africa (to supplement their daily diet), three plants were reported to have high protein content, four had large amounts of essential fatty acids, three were rich in calcium, and three were rich in iron (Glew et al. 1997). The Ferlo region of Northern Senegal in Africa suffers from seasonal food shortages, particularly of vitamins, because of the existing arid conditions. The population, to overcome this deficiency, consumes 5 indigenous plant species on a large scale and another 20 plant species on a lesser scale (Becker, 1983).
It is quite possible that following appropriate scientific analysis as to their nutritional contents, the non-conventional plants consumed by the low income people of Atra village during times of food scarcity, may prove to be of better nutritional value than the conventionally eaten staple diet of rice with lentils and vegetables. Moreover, it is to be noted, that the non-conventional plants consumed by the people of Atra grow in 'semi-wild' or wild conditions, e.g. in marshy areas or by roadsides and fallow lands. Since they grow untended by themselves without any proper maintenance, application of fertilizers or pesticides, they are more stress tolerant. As a result they can be of enormous significance, when growing conditions are adverse for normal crops. Such conditions are present in many countries of the world throughout the year, and in Bangladesh under adverse weather conditions. Also, it has been predicted that with global climate changes such adverse conditions will increase. As a result, these non-conventional plants merit further scientific studies for they can become crops of the future.
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(1) Anita Paul, (2) Sadique Mohammad Arif, (2) Sujit Biswas, (1) Muhammad Tazul Islam, (2) Md. Hasan Al Arif, (2) Shuvagata Kahali, (1) Alok Kumar Paul, (1) Mohammed Rahmatullah
(1) Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh.
(2) Department of Pharmacy, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka-1342, Bangladesh.
Anita Paul, Sadique Mohammad Arif, Sujit Biswas, Muhammad Tazul Islam, Md. Hasan Al Arif, Shuvagata Kahali, Alok Kumar Paul, Mohammed Rahmatullah: A survey of non-conventional plant items consumed during periods of food scarcity by low income groups in Atra village of Khulna district, Bangladesh
Corresponding Author: Professor Dr. Mohammed Rahmatullah, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Development Alternative House No. 78, Road No. 11A (new) Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1205 Bangladesh
Table 1: Non-conventional plant items consumed by the poor people of Atra village in Khulna district, Bangladesh during times of food scarcity. Plant name Family Local name Hygrophila auriculata Acanthaceae Kule khara, (Schum.) Heyne English: Talmakhna Hygrophila Alternanthera sessilis Amaranthaceae Malancha (L.) R. Br. ex DC. English: Sessile joyweed Amaranthus spinosus Amaranthaceae Kata shak, L. English: Spiny Kata notey amaranth Spondias pinnata Anacardiaceae Pati amra (L. f.) Kurz. English: Wild mango Amorphophallus Araceae Ol kochu, Ol campanulatus Blume. English: Elephant foot yam Colocasia esculenta Araceae Kochu (L.) Schott English: Green taro Typhonium trilobatum Araceae Ghatkul, (L.) Schott. English: Ghetkun Bengal arum Daemonorops jenkinsianus Arecaceae Gola beth (Griff.) Mart. English: Dragon's blood palm Nypa fruticans Wurmb. Arecaceae Golpata English: Nipah palm Phoenix sylvestris Arecaceae Khejur (L.) Roxb. English: Wild date palm Enhydra fluctuans Asteraceae Helencha Lour. English: Water cress Chenopodium album L. Chenopodiaceae Beto shak English: White goosefoot Terminalia catappa L. Combretaceae Kat badam English: tropical almond Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. Convolvulaceae Kolmi shak English: Swamp morning glory Ipomoea batatas (L.) Convolvulaceae Mishti alu Lam. English: Sweet potato Coccinia cordifolia Cucurbitaceae Telakucha (L.) Cogn. English: Ivy gourd Dillenia indica L. Dilleniaceae Chalta English: Elephant apple Dioscorea esculenta Dioscoreaceae Maetae alu (Lour.) Burkill English: Lesser yam Dryopteris filix-mas L. Dryopteridaceae Dheki shak English: Common male fern Phyllanthus acidus (L.) Euphorbiaceae Noal, Orboroi Skeels English: Malay gooseberry Cajanus cajan (L.) Fabaceae Orhorer dal Millsp. English: Pigeon pea Pithecellobium dulce Fabaceae Khoya babla, (Roxb.) Benth. Jilapi fol English: Monkeypod gach Sesbania grandiflora Fabaceae Bokful (L.) Pers. English: August flower Tamarindus indica L. Fabaceae Tetul English: Tamarind Glinus oppositifolius Molluginaceae Gima shak (l.) A. DC. English: Slender carpetweed A rtocarpus lakoocha Moraceae Deua fol Wall. ex Roxb. English: Lakoocha Ficus hispida L. Moraceae Dumur English: Hairy fig Syzygium fruticosum Myrtaceae Khudi jam (Roxb.) DC. English: Water apple Syzygium syzygioides Myrtaceae Khori jam (Miq.) Merr. & L.M. Perry English: James' catseye Nymphaea nouchali Burm. Nyphaeaceae Shapla f. English: Red and blue water lily Trapa bispinosa Roxb. Onagraceae Pani fol English: Water chestnut Oxalis corniculata L. Oxalidaceae Ambali shak English: Wood sorrel) Ziziphus mauritiana Rhamnaceae Boroi Lam. English: Indian jujube Flacourtia indica Salicaceae Dunkhar (Burm. f.) Merr. English: Governor's plum Bacopa monnieri (L.) Scrophulariaceae Brahmi shak Penn. English: Water hyssop Centella asiatica (L.) Umbelliferae Thankuni Urb. English: Indian pennywort Plant name Parts eaten Mode of consumption Hygrophila auriculata Leaf, Cooked in the form (Schum.) Heyne English: new stems of vegetable, fried. Hygrophila Alternanthera sessilis Leaf, Cooked in the (L.) R. Br. ex DC. new stems form of vegetable, English: Sessile fried, boiled in joyweed water and taken as soup. Amaranthus spinosus Leaf, fresh Fried, boiled in L. English: Spiny stems water and taken as amaranth soup. Spondias pinnata Fruit pulp, Taken as juice or (L. f.) Kurz. English: fresh new boiled in water and Wild mango leaves taken as soup. Amorphophallus Stem, tuber Cooked in the form campanulatus Blume. of vegetable, English: Elephant foot fried. Tubers are yam also boiled in water and taken in the mashed form. Colocasia esculenta Leaf, rhizome Cooked in the form (L.) Schott English: of vegetable, fried. Green taro Typhonium trilobatum Leaf Cooked in the form (L.) Schott. English: of vegetable, Bengal arum fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Daemonorops jenkinsianus Ripe fruit Eaten raw when (Griff.) Mart. English: fresh. Dragon's blood palm Nypa fruticans Wurmb. Fruit pulp Eaten raw when English: Nipah palm fresh. Phoenix sylvestris Pulp of ripe Eaten raw. (L.) Roxb. English: fruit Wild date palm Enhydra fluctuans Leaf, new Cooked in the form Lour. English: Water stems of vegetable, cress fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Chenopodium album L. Leaf, new Cooked in the form English: White goosefoot stems of vegetable, fried, boiled in water with tamarind and taken as soup. Terminalia catappa L. Seed Seeds are eaten in English: tropical almond the raw form. Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. Leaf, new Cooked in the form English: Swamp morning stems of vegetable, glory fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Ipomoea batatas (L.) Tuber Boiled in water Lam. English: Sweet and taken in the potato mashed form. Coccinia cordifolia Leaf Juice obtained from (L.) Cogn. English: macerated leaves is taken raw or leaves are cooked as curry Ivy gourd with taki fish (Spotted snakehead or Chana punctata). Note that this fish can be found in abundance in marshes and small water bodies like ponds. Dillenia indica L. Flower sepal Boiled in water and English: Elephant apple taken as soup or eaten raw mixed with salt and other spices. Dioscorea esculenta Tuber Cooked in the form (Lour.) Burkill of vegetable, English: Lesser yam fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Dryopteris filix-mas L. Leaf, new stem Cooked in the form English: Common male of vegetable, fried. fern Phyllanthus acidus (L.) Fruit Taken raw with Skeels English: Malay salt, boiled in gooseberry water and taken as soup. Cajanus cajan (L.) Seed Boiled in water and Millsp. English: Pigeon taken as soup. pea Pithecellobium dulce Fruit Eaten raw. (Roxb.) Benth. English: Monkeypod Sesbania grandiflora Flower Eaten in the fried (L.) Pers. English: form. August flower Tamarindus indica L. New leaf, Boiled in water English: Tamarind fruit pulp and taken as soup. Glinus oppositifolius Leaf, new stem Cooked in the form (l.) A. DC. English: of vegetable, fried. Slender carpetweed A rtocarpus lakoocha Fruit pulp Boiled in water Wall. ex Roxb. English: (available and taken as soup. Lakoocha during the winter season) Ficus hispida L. Barks of Cooked in the form English: Hairy fig floral stem of vegetable or boiled in water and taken as soup. Syzygium fruticosum Fruit pulp Eaten with salt. (Roxb.) DC. English: Water apple Syzygium syzygioides Fruit pulp Eaten with salt. (Miq.) Merr. & L.M. Perry English: James' catseye Nymphaea nouchali Burm. Flower stems, Cooked in the form f. English: Red and seeds of vegetable, blue water lily fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Seeds are also eaten in the puffed form. Trapa bispinosa Roxb. Fruit pulp Taken raw or fried. English: Water chestnut Oxalis corniculata L. Leaf Cooked in the form English: Wood sorrel) of vegetable, fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Ziziphus mauritiana Fruit Taken raw when Lam. English: Indian ripe; unripe fruits jujube are taken in the pickled form with salt and other spices. Flacourtia indica Fruit pulp Taken raw when (Burm. f.) Merr. fresh. English: Governor's plum Bacopa monnieri (L.) Leaf, new Cooked in the form Penn. English: Water stems of vegetable, hyssop fried, boiled in water and taken as soup. Centella asiatica (L.) Leaf Cooked in the form Urb. English: Indian of vegetable, pennywort fried, boiled in water and taken as soup, or sometimes eaten raw.
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|Title Annotation:||ORIGINAL ARTICLE|
|Author:||Paul, Anita; Arif, Sadique Mohammad; Biswas, Sujit; Islam, Muhammad Tazul; Arif, Md. Hasan Al; Kahal|
|Publication:||American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2012|
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