Various stakeholders including millers, academia, development agencies, policy makers, government ministries and agencies, gathered at Safari Park Hotel, March 16, 2022, for the Annual Miller’s Conference to explore strategies and mechanisms for optimal milling environment.
This they agreed was critical in ensuring availability of safe and nutritious maize flour for the Kenyan population as envisioned in the Kenya’s Development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.
The conference comes at a time when Small and Medium Scale Millers (SMSMs) control over 60% of the maize flour market in Kenya.
Prof. Daniel Sila however, acknowledged that the SMSMs face several challenges arising mainly from their limited financial resources and lack of access to correct and actionable information.
‘It is crucial that all the stakeholders dialogue and help find solutions to the issues that affect the SMSMs for them attain the highest standards of product quality,” said Prof. Sila, who is the Project Manager, JKUAT-EU Funded Food Fortification Project.
According to him, this will ensure that the common mwananchi is able to access safe and adequately fortified foods for better health and productivity.
To play their part, Prof. Sila informed participants that JKUAT has come up with novel innovations and strategies to strengthen the food fortification efforts in the country.
“With the support of the European Union, we have trained millers and Public Health Officers and have come up with guidelines in an effort to harmonize the fortification process. As an academic institution, our key role is to support millers with relevant innovations to provide practical solutions to the challenges facing the millers,” said Prof. Sila.
For instance, the EU funded Food Fortification Project, domiciled at JKUAT with the help of faculty and students is developing a Fourier Transform Near Infrared (FT-NIR) based model that is more rapid and non-invasive analytical tool.
According to Brenda Chepkoech Rutto, an MSc. Food Science and Technology student at JKUAT, FT-NIR is timely, has a quick turn-around and can handle high number of samples when evaluating the stability of vitamins and minerals in fortified maize flour.
The other innovation spearheaded by David Chitayi and Fred Wanjohi from the College of Engineering and Technology is the design and fabrication of a low cost fortification equipment (doser) that can be used by small to medium scale milling industries.
On the progress of the project, Prof. Sila noted that the Project in partnership with Ministry of Health has spearheaded; the strengthening of the Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA) through organization of quarterly meetings; provided leadership for developing fortification strategies; trained 156 maize/wheat millers and 270 public health officers (PHOs) across the country on food fortification; developed guidelines for food fortification for millers and PHOs; set up a Food Fortification Laboratory in JKUAT to strengthen self-regulatory monitoring; and analyzed 1063 market survey samples and 342 industry survey sample for fortification and aflatoxin.
The one-day conference was organised by the United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) in partnership with Nutrition International (NI), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and other stakeholders. It brought together over 150 participants from the ministries of Health, Agriculture, Industrialization and Trade, academia, among other stakeholders.