Food Security and Nutrition is one of the Kenya government’s big four development agenda stipulated to create jobs and enable Kenyans meet their basic needs. To help attain this agenda, the Federal Government of Mexico through the Ministry of Agriculture will furnish a nixtamalization machine to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in a bid to transfer nixtamalization technology to Kenya.
Nixtamalization is a process in Mexico and Central America whereby maize is treated with lime, cooked, dried and ground to produce flour used to make tortilla other related maize-based food products.
The Mexican Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Erasmo Martinez said the Nixtamalization technology has the potential of reducing the problem of aflatoxin that has plagued the eastern region of the country by over 45% and significantly transforms the nutritional profile of maize based food products.
“In Mexico we have over 600 different ways of using maize the common one being tortillas which are considered an excellent source of energy due to their high starch content and bioavailability of calcium,” extolled Ambassador Martinez.
Apart from the nutritional value bestowed by nixtamalization, the Ambassador observed that the technology will be vital in propagating agribusiness in the country especially among the youth.
“Nixtamalization is a traditional process which can be done at the comfort of our homes and can be important in sprucing up Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs),” opined Mr. Martinez.
While lauding the innovation and research knack of JKUAT, the Ambassador hoped that the nixtamalization technology transfer was the beginning of broader collaborations with the Institution especially in the fight of food insecurity and malnutrition.
On her part, Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga through the Ministry of Agriculture, thanked the Mexican government for choosing JKUAT and informed them that the initiative will whet the competencies of JKUAT researchers and promote the wellbeing of the farmers in the country.
“We are a university of choice evident by the prowess of our research and academic programmes and you will never go wrong with the expertise at our disposal,” exalted Prof. Imbuga.
Prof. Imbuga was optimistic that the nixtamalization technology will reduce the malnutrition levels in the country especially in children. “It is heartbreaking to hear that a significant number of Kenyan children suffer irreversible damage, have stunted growth, and their brains may not develop to their full potential.”
She said JKUAT was ready to spread the gospel of nixtamalization across the country citing the success of the Mango processing plant at Makueni spearheaded by JKUAT researchers with the aim of reducing postharvest losses and get rid of nutrition based diseases facing the country.
“This technology transfer will supplement our food security and nutritional programs especially the EU-Funded food fortification programme and the recently launched Legume Centre of Excellence for Food and Nutrition Security (LCEFoNS),” elucidated Prof. Imbuga.
The Director of Agriculture in-charge of Crop and Development, Dr. Johnson Irungu said he was glad to see the actualisation of the technology in the country adding that he wanted JKUAT to be a hub for nixtamalization technology in order to train local farmers on the technology.
“We will accord JKUAT the necessary support and hope that through the various training over 100 SMEs can be empowered and economical independence achieved,” said Irungu.
The technology being commissioned in June 2018 is spearheaded by the Embassy of Mexico in Kenya, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).