Today we will again raise the topic of unusual and exclusive amaranth. After all, perhaps it is this plant that is capable of overcoming hunger in many countries of the world. In particular, to solve the problem of food shortages in the African continent. It is there that studies are being conducted today to determine how much amaranth can become a full-fledged supplement to the daily diet of Africans.
And, perhaps, in general, to turn into one of the main food products on the continent.
In rural areas and urban slums in sub-Saharan Africa, many poor people face severe food and nutritional insecurity. This remains the most fundamental problem on the African continent over the years.
Dry and eloquent statistics
Currently, the rate of persistent acute malnutrition is on average 30%, which is twice the emergency threshold of 15% adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For example, in a country like Kenya, poverty and food shortages are highest in all regions:
- in urban areas and slums;
- among herders and farmers;
- as well as in remote areas of the country.
Thus, 33% of Kenyan children under 5 years of age are constantly malnourished, 6% are starving, and another 22% are born prematurely. The situation is similar in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Amaranth, as an excellent addition to the diet
To solve this global problem, scientists, researchers are looking for different ways. So, at the moment in the whole of East Africa, the traditional food is corn.
It is an excellent source of calories, but it does not contain essential amino acids, such as lysine.
Therefore, amaranth, considered as one of the most promising food sources for Africans, will allow complementing the nutritional properties of corn. Because it contains a large number of vital sources of macro-and micronutrients, as well as biologically active compounds. All of them are incredibly healthy.
Agriculture in Africa: what is mainly grown on private plots?
It is noteworthy that in Africa most of the agricultural activities associated with the production of traditional plants involve the employment of women and young people. Growing amaranth in Africa
Traditional African cultures are an important source of nutrition for mothers and children. And also provide the main income of households. For the cultivation of crops here mainly use personal plots or patches of land around the house.
At the same time, as the researchers note, at the moment the production, processing and African vegetables is growing. As commercialization increases. However, in general, the potential remains underdeveloped.
Among the most frequently grown plants are the following:
- Amaranthus spp. (a kind of amaranth);
- Vigna spp. (applies to legumes);
- Solanum spp. (black nightshade);
- Cleome gynandra (known as African cabbage);
- Cucurbita spp. (a kind of pumpkin);
Great prospects amaranth
Resistance to droughts, the lack of moisture, which amaranth has, as well as in combination with its short period of maturity, have led to increased interest in its cultivation and production in Kenya and neighboring countries.
The leaves are a good source of vitamin A, C, K and folic acid. Seeds contain large amounts of protein (gluten free), which is a good source of dietary fiber and minerals, such as:
Amaranth seed oil can also be a unique product, a complete dietary supplement. Moreover, it is incredibly good for health, because it helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant protection and improving immunity.
New project from leading research centers
At present, a full-scale project has been launched in Africa, which makes it possible to fully assess the prospects for growing amaranth Research in Africa and the spread of this culture. The following organizations and institutions take part in it:
- University of Agriculture and Technology Jomo Kenyat, Kenya;
- Biological Center for Eastern and Central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya;
- Agricultural University of Sokojn, Tanzania;
- Regional African Center for the World Vegetable Center, Tanzania;
- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia.
This project is focused on solving basic problems arising from the organization of the cultivation, production and ensuring the delivery of leaves, grains and oil to the final consumer.
In East Africa in the past 10 years, amaranth is increasingly gaining ground. Especially in comparison with other traditional vegetables. This is due to its high acceptability and multipurpose use. After all, leaves and grains are eaten, and flour and oil can be obtained from the grains themselves.
A project in Africa integrates agricultural methods, science and technology in the field of food and nutrition by involving farmers and stakeholders. That will improve the production of a variety of nutritious, safe and resistant to food storage. And this, in turn, guarantees a solution to the problem of food shortages.
The project is implemented in Kenya and Tanzania. It is expected that approximately 240 farmer will be involved. They are planned to organize in a kind of clusters.
The first steps of the project will include an assessment of the limitations in knowledge and technology throughout the whole chain of growing and producing amaranth. As well as creating strong links between different segments of the whole chain:
- by consumers.
Especially since it is necessary to find effective ways to solve the problems encountered by farmers. The causes of such problems are:
- insufficient knowledge of the practice of farming, breeding and agronomic aspects;
- inadequate knowledge of post-harvest practices and limited possibilities for extending shelf life;
- imperfect storage and distribution methods;
- poor quality, poor packaging and poor marketing strategies (or lack thereof).
Therefore, the project will study low-cost sustainable technologies to solve the problems of post-harvest losses. For this purpose it is planned to develop special strategies.
Creating strong relationships between manufacturers and processors of amaranth products will help stimulate the development of the industry and provide food to a large number of people.
Studies in Africa once again prove how useful and effective a plant such as amaranth is. He has a really big future. That will positively affect the health of people around the world. And also will allow to solve the problem of hunger in African countries. And in other regions of the world!