Exploring the food use of cucurbit seeds (egusi) for community nutrition and food security in Northern Ghana

Exploring the food use of cucurbit seeds (egusi) for community nutrition and food security in Northern Ghana

Undernutrition resulting from food insecurity remains a challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana is no exception, with 3.6 million of the population currently undernourished in spite of international commendations on its achievements towards achieving national food and nutrition security as well as health targets. Due to pre-disposed vulnerabilities, food insecure communities are also hardest hit by the effects of climate change on food systems. There is thus an urgent need to identify effective and sustainable approaches to addressing food and nutrition needs in such communities.

One such approach is the conscious integration of indigenous underutilised crops into agricultural interventions. A review of available literature combined with stakeholder engagement suggest cucurbit seeds (commonly referred to as egusi), as a food category,  that can be an appropriate vehicle for community nutrition and food security interventions. This study will explore the potential of utilising egusi in food-insecure communities in Northern Ghana.

Employing both social science and environmental sustainability principles, a mixed-methods participatory approach will be used to document agronomic practices and food uses of egusi, in order to identify community-specific, climate- and nutrition-sensitive agronomic interventions for sustainable production.

Furthermore, the study aims to analyse the composition of egusi using methods from food science and biochemistry to inform further food applications. Following procedures for community nutrition interventions, food product development principles will be employed to update recipes of local dishes and improve their nutritional value. It is envisaged that this project will ultimately contribute to national efforts towards achieving sustainable food and nutrition security through evidence-based, tailored policies directed at undernourished communities.