Evaluation of the pumkin varieties and determination of their micronutrients in the Lake Victoria Basin
Echessa, A.C. Peter
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The Lake Victoria Basin (L VB) in East Africa hosts over thirty million inhabitants most of whom are classified as absolutely poor. The food security in the region is manifested in high levels of malnutrition, child mortality and high HIV and AIDS incidents. There is need for food diversifications. Food crops like pumpkins though indigenous in the region have no established position within the major food crops despite their rich nutritional potential and capability to provide a balanced diet. Further, the fact that pumpkins have an easy production (3-4 month), long shelf1ife (over six month) and therefore available, should increase their likelihood incorporation in the diet. The study set out to establish the varieties, storage methods, uses and levels of micronutrients of the pumpkins grown by small holder farmers in four districts of Busia, Gucha, Jinja and Tarime within the Lake Victoria Basin. A questionnaire was administered to determine the baseline information on the families, varieties, storage methods and uses. The levels of b-carotene, a-tocopherol and the B-complex vitamins were determined with RP HPLC. Vitamin C was analysed by titration while AAS was used for the analysis of trace elements (zinc, iron and selenium). Standards were run and calibration curve equations with 0.955 :::; R2 :::; 0.999 used to calculate the concentrations. Three species of pumpkins Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata were widely distributed. Ten different varieties were sampled. The use of pumpkins as stable food among the households .significantly differed between the districts, 5.5 % in Gucha as compared with over 25% in rest. Most households (2': 75 %) use pumpkins for pudding. The levels of micronutrients in different varieties (Fruits) showed significant differences that could not be accounted for by chance. At 95 % confidence limit, moisture (p = 0.003), ~-carotene (p = 0.000), thiamine (p = 0.000), riboflavin (p = 0.001), niacin (p = 0.000) and pyridoxine (p = 0.000) varied significantly. Further comparison of the samples from each district equally showed significant differences (p < 0.05) in all micronutrients except selenium (p = 0.447) levels. These results indicate non universality in levels of micronutrients in different varieties and between locations enhancing the need for focusing on those superior varieties (like the banana variety) as established in this study. From the levels of the micronutrients (~-carotene 2.220-2.670 mg / 100 g, zinc 0.986-1.728 mg / 100g, iron 2.16-1.68 mg / 100g) established, it is appropriate to popularize the utilization of pumpkins as a conventional rich food source to supplement the traditional cereal based diets aimed at combating the problem of food shortages and malnutrition in the Lake Victoria Basin and developing countries in general.