Deficiency in iron and zinc in human nutrition especially among children with stunted growth has seen the Government take deliberate measures to introduce high yielding bean varieties to bridge the dietary imbalance in the meals of vulnerable families.
Through the Kenya Agri-Nutrition Strategy (2020 to 2024) the government is focusing on securing access to safe, diverse and nutritious food by strengthening the national food chain and community production and also retention in cooking grains.
Scientists are now asking Kenyans to consume more beans that are rich in iron and zinc to address malnutrition.
The government has come up with bean varieties that are rich in Zinc and Iron which include; Nyota, Faida, Angaza, Cheupe that have been developed by University of Nairobi (UoN) while varieties like Nyota now available through KALRO.
Calling it the Hidden Hunger, Dr. Beatrice Kiage, a nutrition Associate with Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) has been working with the Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to produced over 40 bean recipes to be able to reach more consumers and especially children and pregnant mothers who are affected by malnutrition.
The latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows that 26 percent of children under the age of five are so malnourished that they have become stunted, or too short for their age with the rate of stunting being as high as 46 percent in some Counties while across the country more than one in ten children which is 11 percent are underweight.
According to Dr. Kiage, experts are concerned about the zinc and iron deficiency that is contributing to the high level of stunting and it is high time that ways such as introducing good bean recipes to entice children are used to upscale the adoption of beans.
Speaking during a farmer’s field day on upscaling of the beans rich in iron and zinc and introduction of the various recipes from the beans to farmers and consumers, Dr. Kiage said that a while back they carried out a formative research in Kiambu, Meru and Nyeri Counties to find out some of the barriers and gaps in the bean consumption .
“ Our research found out that one of the things that makes consumers shun away from eating beans was because of gas , but also because it was becoming boring especially for children as they either consumed “Githeri” or even just Beans”, she noted .
Dr. Kiage said together with KALRO they have developed 40 bean recipes that can appeal to the modern man and also children and address risk of getting micro nutrient deficiency in iron and zinc through improvising various cooking recipes using beans
“One can make foods such as Kebabs, doughnuts , cakes , biscuits out of beans and this will not only be embraced by children and will also ensure adoption and consumption of beans. We are promoting this recipes at the rural population where the beans are normally consumed and also grown”, she explained.
Dr. Kiage expounded saying that using beans as a vehicle that is cheap, widely consumed and interesting is never boring as one can be able to feed on beans from breakfast, lunch and even dinner.
In the health areas, the Nutritionist said that during the research they realized that many people just know that beans are rich in protein but not that they also have other benefits.
“ For diabetes patients, beans are important as they stabilize sugar levels, they are good for cardio vascular as they have fibre that lowers cholesterol , they control cancers and weight management, they are also good for cognitive development and also address the Non-Communicable-Diseases (NCDs)”, she explained.
Lydia Kirimi , Nutritionist working in Kieni West , Muguda ward in Lamuria location said that they have been training farmers on the new recipes which the farmers are adopting and testing them
“We have today introduced nine different recipes recipes , 3 types of chapatis, doughnuts, kebabs all made from the high yielding types of beans “ , she said
The farmers, Kirimi said, have seen the importance of the technology, realized they can do a lot with the beans and some even want to venture into business with the new recipes.
Stakeholders should promote this recipes by training farmers and also educating them on the value of the zinc and iron in beans. Farmers who want to venture into business can also do so by introducing the unique recipes while consumers should embrace the recipes and see the value and introduce them to the children.
The process for cooking the various recipes Kirimi said is easy and what one requires is just to precook the beans, dry them at home but on a larger scale can be milled at the big millers.
The iron and Zinc rich bean recipes booklet dubbed “Zion-pulse promoting the consumption and adoption of beans using a variety of ways is designed for extension officers, community nutritionists and community health volunteers to help them provide step by step instructions to communities and households on how to prepare and consume common bean using various recipes.
ZIRON pulse being funded by James Anton Institute with Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) dealing with health and nutrition issues, University of Nairobi and Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization dealing with breeding and University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom being among the five consortium.
By Wangari Ndirangu