Amaranth stakeholders root for impactful approaches to increase consumption
By Patrick Amunavi
Stakeholders attending a workshop to share the progress on the Amazing Amaranth research project are calling for more engaging, interactive and impactful approaches aimed at increasing the consumption of Indigenous African Vegetables (AIVs), particularly vegetable Amaranths.
The two-day workshop was organized by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the World Vegetable Centre, jointly implementing the Amazing Amaranth for nutrition security, health and sustainable development research – funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) through the GIZ.
The researchers drawn from Kenya, donors, indigenous African vegetable value chain stakeholders reiterated the vegetable amaranths' inherent high nutrition value that include richness in Vitamins A and C as well as minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorus among others.
The research team leader, Prof. Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, hailed the value of vegetable Amaranths as one of the popular indigenous vegetables widely consumed across the sub-Saharan Africa, adding, vegetable amaranths has anti-oxidant activity; the anti-oxidants aid in the removal of harmful chemicals in the body.
She contends that by consuming vegetable Amaranths, a person becomes healthy and is likely to be less predisposed to lifestyle diseases.
Prof. Abukutsa and Prof. Willis Owino, gave an incisive presentation on the AIVs and Amaranths research milestones at JKUAT that included an exhibition that entailed a display of posters, potted plants and processed vegetable Amaranths products.
Dr. Roland Schafleitner and Prof. Abukutsa are the Amazing Amaranth Research Project's Coordinator and Principal Investigator, respectively. The 4 – year project runs up to 2021.
Ms. Christina Lubotzki, working for GIZ under the Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development project (BEAF), said, "GIZ is commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) to manage Germany's support to international agricultural research for development, currently about 17 international agricultural research centers."
Ms. Lubotzki further said, the World Vegetable Centre is one of the centres that has partnered with JKUAT to implement the Amazing Amaranths research project. She said she was happy to be at "JKUAT to have a one-on-one interaction with the Amaranths project researchers and other players to understand what is happening on the ground, and the kind of impact the Amazing Amaranth research initiative is already having amongst stakeholders."
Christina, observed that "It is exciting to be in close touch with the projects to assess what needs to be applied and what the population and consumers require. This forum is key in engaging, exchanging and translating what we are working for and what we see."
Dr. Schafleitner, reiterated that the forum "provided a good opportunity to review the Amaranths research progress and plan for the remaining work to be undertaken. He acknowledged Christina Lubotzki's input in enhancing the project's impact and thanked her for "working closely with the research team to make its work amazing!"
Participants were treated to rare opportunity to appreciate the application of science in the preparation of highly nutritious African indigenous vegetables at the University's Food Science Labs, with Horticulture, and Food Science and Technology students demonstrating various techniques of preparing and cooking vegetable Amaranths using different recipes developed by JKUAT researchers.
The team also visited the AIVs demonstration farm at JKUAT that serves as the first port of call for small-holder farmers, agribusinesses and other stakeholders in the entire vegetable value chains across the country, including students who come to acquire skills and knowledge on good agronomic practices, their importance for improved production, nutrition and income generation.
The research initiative is being undertaken in the backdrop of concerns by the World Vegetable Center that "the vegetable sector in sub-Saharan Africa is severely underdeveloped and vegetable consumption is extremely low."
However, Africa's diverse agro-climatic zones, the Center notes, "provide enormous potential for smallholder farmers to produce numerous vegetable crops for domestic and international markets."