Amaranth stakeholders root for approaches to enhance consumption

Researchers, farmers and other stakeholders recognize that Africa’s diverse climatic zones can be production powerhouses for indigenous vegetable crops such as amaranth.

Christina Lubotzki joins other stakeholders during a tour of the amaranth research plots at the JKUAT demonstration farm.

Amaranth researchers, donors and other stakeholders are calling for more engaging, interactive and impactful approaches aimed at increasing the consumption of indigenous African vegetables—particularly amaranth, which provides vitamins A and C as well as minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorus to the diet. Although the vegetable sector in sub-Saharan Africa is severely underdeveloped and vegetable consumption is extremely low, the continent’s diverse agroclimatic zones provide enormous potential for smallholder farmers to produce a range indigenous vegetable crops for domestic and international markets.

During a two-day workshop organized by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), stakeholders shared progress on the Amazing Amaranth for Nutrition Security, Health and Sustainable Development Research project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) through GIZ. The 4-year project runs to 2021. Dr. Roland Schafleitner from WorldVeg is the Project Coordinator and Prof. Abukutsa from JKUAT is the Principal Investigator.

Participants hailed the value of amaranth, one of the most popular indigenous vegetables consumed across sub-Saharan Africa. Amaranth contains antioxidants, which aid in the removal of harmful free radicals—unstable atoms that can damage cells in the body.

Prof. Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, research team leader, said increased consumption of amaranth promotes overall health.

Prof. Abukutsa and Prof. Willis Owino, one of the supervisors of Winnie Nyonje, a PhD student at JKUAT working on the amaranth research project, presented indigenous vegetable research milestones at JKUAT. The workshop included a poster display, potted plants and processed amaranth products.

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. She was delighted to be in Africa and Kenya to interact with the amaranths project researcher and other key stakeholders, and familiarize herself with what is happening in the field and the kind of impact the Amazing Amaranth research initiative is already having among stakeholders.

“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,” Christina observed. “This workshop is key in engaging, exchanging and translating what we are working for and what we see.”

“The workshop provided a good opportunity to review research progress and plan for the remaining work to be undertaken,” said Dr. Schafleitner, who was accompanied by WorldVeg Vegetable Breeder Dr. Fekadu Dinssa, and Flagship Leader for Enabling Impact Dr. Pepijn Schreinemachers. He acknowledged that “Christina Lubotzki’s input would go a long way in enhancing the project’s impact” and thanked her for “working closely with the research team to make its work amazing!”

Students from JKUAT’s Horticulture and Food Science and Technology Departments prepared highly nutritious African indigenous vegetables in University’s Food Science Labs for the participants and demonstrated different methods for preparing and cooking amaranth using recipes developed by JKUAT researchers.

Workshop participants, including Ruth Minja (TARI), Thomas Kariuki (Simlaw Seed), Dr. Patrick Mbindyo and Patrick Kavagi (JKUAT) visited the indigenous vegetable demonstration farm at JKUAT. The farm is the first port of call for smallholder farmers, students, agribusinesses and other stakeholders who come to learn and acquire skills and knowledge on good production practices, nutrition, and income generation.

Story and photos: Patrick Amunavi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)

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Prof. Abukutsa (2nd from right), Christina Lubotzki (right) and Fekadu Dinssa visit the indigenous vegetables exhibition area.

JKUAT student Sylvia Buleti demonstrates her vegetables cooking skills at the JKUAT Food Science and Technology Labs.

POWER ON YOUR PLATE: An All-Africa Summit on Diversifying Food Systems with African Traditional Vegetables to Increase Health, Nutrition and Wealth

New dates!

25-28 January 2021
Arusha, Tanzania