Quinoa to boost food diversity

31 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Quinoa to boost food diversity

The Sunday News

Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

ZIMBABWE is set to boost its food diversity and increase food security as a highly nutritious small grain, quinoa, has been introduced to farmers with Matabeleland region having started to grow the crop that is adaptive to local climatic conditions.

The crop is a pseudo cereal meaning it is a grain with high value protein, making it a cereal which has carbohydrates and protein that combines both and improves nutrition. Quinoa has a lot of other nutritional components and minor nutrients which are not present in most cereals even in maize.

Quinoa

It has been introduced in Lupane, Matobo, Insiza, Nkayi, Mbire and Mutoko districts and has been subjected to the Standard Association of Zimbabwe tests who confirmed its nutritional composition. 

Quinoa can be cooked like rice or ground into flour and used to bake bread and other confectioneries. Research has also shown that its nutritional composition is higher than that of maize.

The cereal has been available in selected retail outlets in Zimbabwe but as an imported product.

Agricultural advisor at Sizimele Consortium Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) project Mr Thandazani Mkwananzi said quinoa was imported from South America in 2017 as an alternative nutritive food source for Zimbabwe in its initiative of building resilience for communities facing hunger owing to climate change.

“Part of the task of the Sizimele Consortium was to identify crops that are adaptable to the climate change we are experiencing. Quinoa has been present in Europe and South America. It’s a pseudo cereal so in terms of nutritional value it’s higher than maize and small grains. It was brought in through the proper channels such as the Government, research stations, and through the Midlands State University taking care of the quarantine,” he said.

Midlands State University campus in Gweru

He said they had to first see if the crop would adapt in Zimbabwe and to see if it does not have the characteristics of being an invasive species.

“There were a lot of phases that were done, whenever we introduce a new crop, it goes through many processes. Someone would ask why we took this crop from South America; on the global map you realise that Zimbabwe and South America are on the same region in terms of the tropical lines so it means they experience similar climatic conditions. So, whenever you are looking for crops that can thrive in your area you look at other countries that are in the same line with you. That is why we have adopted maize from a similar environment and quinoa from a similar environment,” said Mr Mkwananzi.

He said crops that Zimbabwe has now like maize and small grains were adopted from other regions which are similar by virtue of seeing their value. He added that in terms of cropping and agriculture it has to be adaptive to the environment being experienced. 

Mr Mkwananzi said people who have been showing interest in the cereal because of its high value in nutrients are those with various health conditions like diabetes, those who eat gluten free products because it is highly nutritious.

Speaking on the growing of quinoa and future of food security in Zimbabwe, Sizimele Consortium said more crops need to be introduced into the Zimbabwean climate.

“Ideally, we need to look for more. Quinoa does not need a lot of rain, it is a very small grain and it matures very fast, within 80 days it will be mature, which means that it is a good quality given that our rainfall pattern is erratic. 

“Because it is a small grain it does need to get enough moisture during germination, it does not need too much rain as it can be easily washed away. It must not also be put too deep into the soil too.”

Mr Mkwananzi said they were still teaching farmers how to cook the grain and tasting the different recipes and products so that they are able to utilise the crop.

“When you are building resilience, we are making sure there is food security, income security then investment and everything else. We are bringing in the importance of alternative food sources in terms of nutrition.”

He said looking at the erratic rainfall patterns in Zimbabwe, the country needs to go beyond quinoa to see which other crops are suitable, learning from other regions. [email protected]

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