There is a triple burden of malnutrition in Kenya, characterised by the coexistence of micronutrient deficiencies, overweight, and obesity. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods like orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can help improve the nutritional intake of specific age groups, such as young children and expectant mothers. Orange-fleshed sweet potato is one of the underutilised crops currently being promoted in Kenya due to its climate resilience and nutritional value. For example, it is reported to have high levels of beta-carotene, which is a precursor of Vitamin A. Similarly, product diversity expands dietary options and customer preferences, hence enhancing food and nutrition security.
Food insecurity persists in Kenya despite improvements in the availability, accessibility, and stability of household-level food supply over the past thirty years. This is attributed to factors such as low adoption of nutritious local crops, stagnant agricultural production, low use of agricultural technology, high food prices, the effects of climate change – including more frequent natural disasters – on the nation’s mostly rain-fed agriculture, and a decline in the resilience of pastoral livelihoods, especially in the country’s arid regions. Modern technology has both a direct and indirect impact on farmers’ productivity and production. It can enhance food security, raise adopters’ incomes, and boost family assets.
The rates of adoption and implementation of value-added products are still poor in Kenya for a variety of reasons, including the expensive implementation process, attitudes, perceptions, community norms, a lack of information, and a lack of skills, among others. Research has shown that processing sweet potatoes, for example, has the potential to increase production and consumption and also to enhance food and nutrition security – which is a global concern. However, after exploring the issue of value addition in relation to food and nutrition security in research conducted in Elgeyo Marakwet County in Kenya, the research findings report that smallholder farmers in this county have not embraced value-addition techniques due to limited knowledge. Therefore, it is crucial to introduce simple value-addition technologies to increase the production and consumption of indigenous crops such as sweet potatoes and thereby increase the income of households.
My research for the FSNet-Africa fellowship focused on promoting value-addition techniques by developing recipe manuals for value-added orange-fleshed sweet potato products (chapati, Mandazi, and yoghurt). The training was undertaken by a food and nutrition scientist among 30 selected farmers through demonstration training (training of trainers) and a farmer participatory model. After the training, the developed recipe manuals were distributed to the farmers and the trained farmers were awarded certificates of participation so that they could train other farmers in the community to ensure the sustainability of the knowledge. This gave the farmers an opportunity to practice and implement the knowledge in their households. During the feedback workshop, the farmers shared success stories of how the recipe manual has helped them in terms of household food preparation, and some have started businesses selling the value-added products. This has helped them increase their income and, as such, has improved their livelihoods.
It is anticipated that the introduction of value-added products made from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes will improve consumption of this highly nutritious but underutilised crop, hence promoting food and nutrition security among households and within specific population groups such as the elderly, expectant mothers, and children under five. The findings provide baseline data to influence policy and practice on the implementation of value-addition technology for sustainable food systems.
As part of the research outputs, a booklet was developed which showcases the research and recipes value-added orange-fleshed sweet potato products. Download the booklet here.