Finger millet can play a key role in fighting malnutrition and bringing down the numbers of malnourished children under five years of age.

“Finger millet is high in calcium, zinc and iron. Hence it is good for children, young women and breast-feeding mothers. It possesses important amino acids, which help fight malnutrition and degenerative diseases,” said Dr Rhoda Nungo, Food Nutritionist, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) – Alupe Research Centre, Busia. She was speaking at a training program.

By working in synergy with the Beyond Zero Campaign spearheaded by the First Lady of Kenya, HE Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta, the level of malnourished children under the age of five can be reduced from the current 30% to 15% or less, she said.

The Beyond Zero Campaign targets infants, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children below five years with the goal of reducing food insecurity and eliminating maternal deaths.

Dr Rhoda also stressed on imbibing healthy eating habits in order to fight hidden hunger, malnutrition and disease. She said it can be achieved by promoting consumption of smart foods like sorghum, finger millet and groundnuts that have high nutritional benefits.

Finger millet besides being good for children and mothers is good for the elderly and diabetics as it takes longer to digest and glucose is released slowly into the blood. Sorghum too has high nutritional value, with high levels of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber and minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron.

At the inaugural session, Mr Daniel Otwani, Research Assistant, ICRISAT, outlined the objectives of the training which include:

  • Improved crop production practices in sorghum, finger millet and groundnuts;
  • Community-based high quality seed production, storage and distribution;
  • Value addition, diversified food uses and nutritional benefits of sorghum, finger millet and groundnuts;
  • Crop cut techniques for yield estimation; and
  • Forum for knowledge and experience sharing between project partners.

Dr Patrick Audi, Project Coordinator, ICRISAT, gave an overview of the Feed The Future-Accelerated Value Chain Development (FTF-AVCD) program. Under the framework of Dryland Cereals, the FTF-AVCD project aims at enhancing household nutrition and rural economic growth through upgrading of sorghum, finger millet, groundnuts, pearl millet and pigeonpea value chains. It is being implemented by ICRISAT, KALRO, Country Governments of Siaya, Busia, Makueni, Kitui, Elgeyo Marakwet, Tharaka Nthi and Embu.

The other key presentations during the training were sorghum agronomy and seed production by Dr Eric Manyasa, Scientist, Cereals Breeding, Dryland Cereals, Kenya; finger millet agronomy and seed production by Mr Otwani and groundnut agronomy and seed production by Mr Boaz Okwiri.

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings