Amaranths Vegetable Stakeholders Root for Impactful Approaches to Enhance its Uptake

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

Vegetable Amaranths researchers, donors and other stakeholders are calling for more engaging, interactive and impactful approaches aimed at increasing the consumption of Indigenous African Vegetables (AIVs), particularly vegetable Amaranths, reiterating its 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 stakeholders revealed  during a two-day workshop to share the progress on the Amazing Amaranth research project, 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.

Prof. Abukutsa (2nd from right) explains to Christina (right) and Dinsa when they visited the indigenous vegetables exhibition area. 

The participants hailed the value of vegetable Amaranths – one of the popular indigenous vegetables widely consumed across the sub-Saharan Africa, explaining that vegetable amaranths has  anti-oxidant activity; the anti-oxidants aid in the removal of harmful chemicals in the body.

The research team leader  contends that by consuming vegetable Amaranths, a person becomes healthy and is likely to be less predisposed to lifestyle diseases, revealed Prof. Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, during the forum.

Prof. Abukutsa and Prof. Willis Owino, one of the supervisors of  Winnie Nyonje, a PhD student at JKUAT working on the Amaranths research project – gave an incisive snapshot presentation of the AIVs and Amaranth research milestones at JKUAT, including 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.

Christina joins other stakeholders during a tour of the  JKUAT demonstration farm where Amaranths breeding and growing is done.

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 (i.e. 17 international agricultural research centers).”

Christina further stated that the World Vegetable Centre is one of the centres that has partnered with JKUAT to implement the Amazing Amaranths research project, noting she was delighted to be in Africa and Kenya in particular, “to have a one-on-one interaction with the Amaranths project researchers at JKUAT and other key stakeholders to familiarize herself with what is happening on the ground and the kind of impact the Amazing Amaranth research initiative is already having amongst the stakeholders on the ground.

“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,” Christina, observed.

Dr. Schafleitner who was accompanied by Fekadu Dinsa, and Perijn Schreinemachers all from the World Vegetable Centre, reiterated that the forum, “provided a good opportunity to review the Amaranths research progress and plan for the remaining work to be undertaken.” He said, the research project was halfway through and 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!”

Time to serve and relish the culinary delight of cooked Amaranths vegetables accompanied with maize meal (ugali). 

The participants had an opportunity to appreciate the application of science in the preparation of highly nutritious African indigenous vegetables at the University’s Food Science Labs, with students drawn from Horticulture and Food Science and Technology Departments demonstrating various techniques of preparing and cooking vegetable Amaranths using different recipes developed by JKUAT researchers.

The workshop participants who included Ruth Minja (TARI) and Thomas Kariuki (Simlaw), Dr. Patrick Mbindyo and Patrick Kavagi (JKUAT), 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 learn and acquire requisite skills and knowledge on good agronomic practices, their importance for improved production, nutrition and income generation.

The JKUAT forum comes 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.”

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