Robert Edis works for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Geoff Dean currently receives funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) which the University of Tasmania administers.
Graham Lyons receives funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) (A$100,000 for four years) as well as the South Australian Grain Industry Trust Fund (SAGIT) (A$249,000 for two years and 8 months).
About 70% death rates of people living in Pacific Island countries are due to heart disease, diabetes as well as high blood pressure and cancer..
We wanted to know if it was possible to lower the alarming prevalence of these non-communicable illnesses in these countries and Pacific atolls specifically and improve food security and income. Therefore, we initiated a project to diversify the production of food crops, which includes healthy leafy vegetables, on outer islands atolls of Kiribati as well as Tuvalu.
However, our work in the region was initiated much earlier. In the year 2013 study conducted in the southwestern Pacific, We discovered the best nutritious leafy tropical vegetables that are indigenous to the region.
We have collected leaf samples of the same species, which were grown in various sites on different soils and also from different species thriving in the same area. The leaves were analyzed for minerals and carotenoids, including beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A).
This type of study is referred to as GxE research. GxE study. It focuses on the influences of environmental factors (mostly the type of soil) along with the genetic factors (plant species) on carotenoid and mineral levels.
In our current research, we have discovered almost all of these healthy leafy vegetables are already growing in hedges and gardens on the islands of Kiribati as well as Tuvalu. We just required two additional.
The most atoll-friendly leafy veggies include Chaya (Cnidoscolus Aconitifolius) and drumstick (Moringa Oleifera), Ofenga (Pseuderanthemum whartonianum) and the hedge panax (Polyscias fruticosa) amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) as well as Kangkong (Ipomoea aqua) and the beach cowpea (Vigna marina).
Chaya is rich in protein, and has anti-diabetes properties and is able to grow well on atolls. Graham Lyons, Author provided
There is not much awareness of the nutritional importance for these plant species within Pacific Island countries and other regions of the world in general. Drumstick, for example, is rich in beta-carotene, protein (pro-vitamin A) sulfur, selenium and sulphur.
Hedge panax is rich zinc, which can cause lactation to increase. Ofenga ofenga, which is anti-inflammatory, rich in magnesium. The beach cowpea is also legumes that are able to remove nitrogen from the air and then make it available to other plants. This makes it rich in protein and iron.
They are simple to cultivate and cook. Simply chop them up and steam or boil for 15 minutes and then add coconut cream, and let it cook an additional 15 minutes. Also, they taste fantastic.
Because of misinformation disseminated by a doctor in the area, the majority of people in Kiribati believed that the chaya was the cause of liver disease. However, the reverse is true that when it is boiled or steamed for a short time, the plant shields it from being damaged caused by toxic substances. It’s also rich in protein of high quality.
The increasing awareness of the nutritional importance of these leafy veggies is therefore the primary goal of our program. The work with churches, schools, and other community groups is progressing, as is the supply of seeds and other plant materials.
Food gardens can combat diabetes by providing it with nutrients.
To come back to our original goal of reducing non-communicable illnesses Chaya, drumstick, amaranth, and ofenga can reduce the risk of developing diabetes. It is possible that diabetes can, in fact, be beaten through a sustainable, improved food system that offers the most nutritious food items.