Potential of grain amaranth to improve food and nutrition security in rural Uganda.
Tibagonzeka, Evas Juliet
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Malnutrition is widespread in Uganda and is partly attributed to the poor dietary quality. Dietary quality can be improved in a range of ways including diversification of local diets using grain amaranth. The latter is a nutritious food, fortunately; it can be produced in many parts of Uganda. However, currently, grain amaranth production and utilization in the country is dismal. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of grain amaranth to alleviate malnutrition in Uganda. The study was undertaken in Apac, Kamuli and Nakasongola districts. Firstly, the study set out to establish the current nutrition and food security status of rural households; consequently identifying the nutrient gaps: This involved interviews with 420 farmers (representing 21 farmer groups from 420 different households) to obtain information about food intake, nutrition related knowledge and practices, food insecurity indicators, amaranth production and consumption. Mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) measurements were taken for all children aged 6-59 months in the 420 households studied. Based on food intake data, dietary nutrient gaps were determined. Secondly there was need to develop from grain amaranth and other locally available food materials, recipes that fill the identified nutrient gaps. Thirdly, the study set out insecure compared to those who were asset rich. With respect to nutrition status, no case of severe malnutrition was recorded among the 420 household studied, based on MUAC. Prevalence of moderate malnutrition was at 22%. The proportion of children at risk of being malnourished was 7%. Children whose mothers/caregivers had no formal education were more likely to be malnourished compared to those whose mothers had attained formal education. Regarding child feeding practices, only 36.9% of children had adequate diets. Child morbidity was found to be high, with 62.67% of all children reporting cases of diarrhea, vomiting or fever over the 2 weeks preceding the study. Dietary analysis showed inadequate intake of lipids, niacin, iron, calcium and zinc. The grain amaranth recipes designed to address these nutrient gaps were found to be highly acceptable by communities, with 15 out of 17 scoring ≥4 on a scale of 5. The products developed using developed recipes were generally acceptable (with 16 out of 17 scoring ≥4 on a scale of 5) and found to contain enhanced levels of zinc, iron, calcium and lipids; the very nutrients found to be inadequate in the local diets of the 3 study districts. The study results show that grain amaranth has potential to contribute to improvement in nutrition and food security of communities in the three study districts. The high acceptability of both recipes and products shows high potential for increasedto determine sensory acceptability and nutritional properties of the developed products and lastly there was need to evaluate sensory characteristics of the developed products by panelists and followed it with the trial on acceptability of selected recipes by farmer groups in Apac, Kamuli and Nakasongola. The products were also analyzed for nutritional composition. Analysis of the demographics of the study respondents showed that majority (89.5%) were females and the dominant age category (79.5%) was 18-49 years. A total of 88.6% of the respondents had attained some education. Nearly all (92.1%) of the respondents practiced subsistence farming. Food insecurity was generally prevalent, with 36.5% of studied respondents stating that they ate less than the recommended three meals a day. Apac district had the highest percentage (48.92%) in this category, while Kamuli had the lowest (20.71%). More than half of the households (52.2%) had low dietary diversity (‹ 6 food groups consumed in 7 days). Nakasongola had the highest percentage of households with low dietary diversity (56.6%) while Apac had the lowest percentage of households (46.1%).