State to start sensitising the public on the importance of blended flour

Richard Lesiyampe
Dr Richard Lesiyampe, PS Crops Development. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government will start public sensitisation on the nutrition values of blended flour mid this month. This is meant to address issues raised by a section of millers and consumers.
The ministry is pushing for the product to be on the shelves by November.

According to Ms Jane Wambugu, head of agriculture nutrition and in charge of the initiative, they will be launching the Kenya Food Composition table and recipe book on September 11.
The event will be held at the School of Government, during a three-day agri-nutrition conference.

According to Ms Wambugu, they were forced to conduct public sensitisation after the Cereal Millers Association (CMA) raised several concerns among them consumer preference.
CMA also cited lack of consumer awareness on the nutrition and health values of sorghum and millet flour.

Other challenges raised by the association were resistance to blending of maize flour as it would change the colour and taste of the most favourite dish among Kenyans.

“In some African countries for example, food fortification has been wrongly associated with family planning. These misconceptions may block access to blended maize flour and corn meal, especially if they are supported by local leaders of traditional authorities,” millers association vice chairman Mohamed Ali observes.


Nutrition value

During the conference and national campaigns, nutritional experts will carry out programmes as well as provide data on countries and communities that depend on such meals to better nutrition and fight diseases.

“Here, we will sensitise the public on how to prepare different meals using the blended flours and also inform them on the nutrition value,” Wambugu told the Sunday Nation.

She says it is time Kenyans are educated on importance of consuming meals from these blended flours, which apart from playing a key role in nutrition value, also help fight diseases as well as improve economies of farmers and the country at large.

Food processors say they have been doing single processing for many years and invested heavily in machinery and personnel adding that the new directive may come with some costs.

With processors worried of inadequate raw material for these volumes, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri says farmers are ready to produce more if assured of a market and good prices.

He says; “We have gone a notch higher by trying to see a way in which millers can sub-contract some of the farmers to grow and provide them with certain produce. This is to ensure full time supply and quality produce.”

Although a section of Kenyans reacted negatively towards this initiative, Ms Wambugu said the sensitisation programmes will also assure consumers of food safety.

Under the department of Crops Development, the ministry has already drafted a policy that will see millers blend their flours with other nutrition crops.

Maize being mixed with millet, sorghum and cassava. Wheat will also be blended with cassava.

However, there will be plain maize flour on the shelves to cater for those with allergies and other complications.

The draft aims at reducing consumption of maize by more than 20 million 90 kilogramme bags annually.
At the same time, it will improve nutrition value, open up markets for other crops and create jobs as well.
According to Dr Richard Lesiyampe, PS Crops Development, policy intervention is one way to making sure that the country does not over depend on maize.
Says the PS, “This is a four-prong approach; reduce overdependence on maize, open up economies of other parts of the country through agriculture, value addition and creation of employment and provide food security and nutrition.”

Kenya produces an estimate of 40 million bags of maize annually and consumes roughly 30 million 90kg bags for the same period.

Data from the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises puts the annual consumption of maize to be at about 3.1 million bags monthly.

He says regions within the country that grow these alternative crops will be boost economically and thus improve lifestyle.

He confirms that the ministry and other relevant authorities have to set standards and quality that will meet international requirements.

Among the regions that will benefit under this policy are lower eastern that produces millet and cassava, Nyanza — sorghum and western Kenya that is known for cassava farming.

Dr Lesiyampe confirms that 26 per cent of the Kenyan population faces malnutrition and starvation.

“Stunted growth and malnutrition has great consequences on children and the generation to come. We need to act fast,” he adds.

He however says they are pegging on the rise on lifestyle-diseases, which Kenyans are willing to fight back through consumption of traditional food and balanced diet.

“We really need to go back to our traditional foodstuff and this is one major reason that we are certain Kenyans will agree to this idea of blending,” he notes.

Dr Lesiyampe says it is only in Kenya that people use maize grain to prepare three different meals-ugali, porridge and busaa.

In Mexico and Brazil, he states, they have 365 different meals prepared from maize ragging from cakes to sweets.