Nutrition and Food Security in Africa


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Nutrition and food security are two perennial problems faced by Africa. This is part of the reason that they are part of the SDGs set by the United Nations. The road to achieving SDGs entails aligning agro-processing activities with socioeconomic impact and ensuring a trickledown effect of the benefits of agribusiness to small holder farmers. Identifying a value chain that has multiple revenue streams is the key to cushioning a smallholder farmer from the ravages of climate change and price fluctuations. The ease of propagation and a 9-month timeline between planting and harvesting make reduces the time for the return of investment to be realized by a farmer for a yield to be expected continually up to 5 years from the date of planting.

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The papaya fruit, is a nutraceutical that opens multiple avenues for its utilization for the betterment of society. Some of the multifaceted phytoptherapeutic properties of papaya include anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-helmintic, diuretic, hypolipidemic among others. Since it is a perishable produce, it is best processed in a way that will preserve the integrity of the nutrients. As a result, will use an approach that converts the fruit into a jam blended with ganoderma mushroom. The combination fortifies the product by imparting immunity boosting properties to the jam. The economic potential of the fruit is huge and in order to comprehend the magnitude of the impact of farming the fruit, it is pertinent to assess its impact on the East African Region. Since Agriculture is the bulwark of the East African economy, three research/academic institution zeroed in on the only institution specialized in value addition process of the papaya value chain. As a result, NMK, JKUAT, GCLA, NARO and UR have appreciated the efforts of KPPL and work in tandem to not only assess the benefits of the fruit jam but also the potential of the produce to be grown across the region for the purpose of agro-processing. KPPL has a possible outcome of up to 20 products from the papaya value chain through eco-friendly processes that are not only sustainable but also a process of spreading the business risk to ensure that farmers earn their keep from the sale of their produce.

Deina Papaya Jam is a natural fruit spread made from blending ganoderma mushroom extract with pawpaw pulp. The product, in its uniqueness has been patented in Kenya as a utility model. NMK, GCLA, JKUAT, NARO, UR have identified the uniqueness of the product and the potential impact it stands to have on the East African Economic Landscape if commercialized. Farmers in the Eastern Africa region are lagging behind in the farming of papaya fruit yet the conditions in the area are favorable for the fruit’s growth. This is particularly along the equatorial region since the sunshine provides ambient conditions for the growth of papaya with unique characteristics of ripeness and flavor. In addition to these, the latex yielded by fruit in this region is of superior quality given the soil, temperature, and precipitation in the region being the major contributors. Agribusiness is the only sustainable approach to the production of the fruit in order to be in the same league with countries such as Nigeria and Ghana which lead the pack in the production of papaya in the region. It is pertinent to note that papaya has is a superfruit containing plethora of benefits to the human body. Since it contains more vitamin C than oranges, it is administered among the first foods for infants to boost their immunity. Moreover, the fruit is rich in vitamin A which improves eyesight. Papaya is also good for the stomach as it serves as both a laxative and the improvement of bowel movement. The entire papaya plant contains papain (from the leaves to roots) that break down proteins. These nutraceutical properties can be realized if the fruit is converted into a product such as natural jam whose immune boosting properties are bolstered by fortifying it with Ganoderma mushroom extract product (Watchel-Galor, Yuen, Buswell Benzie, 2011; Lull, Wichers, & Savelkoul, 2005).

The jam, a natural and fortified product, is just but one of the products can be commercialized based on the test marketing that we have conducted both locally and in Ethiopia, China, the European Union and the US. Farmers joining the out-grower’s production scheme can also sell us the papaya leaves to make papaya leaf tea, papaya seed t express papaya seed oil and papaya latex, which is used in industrial processing.

From the lowest point of East Africa which is the East African Coastline and the highest point in Moshi, Mount Kilimanjaro, it has been determined that the bulk of East Africa has favorable conditions for Pawpaw (Carica papaya) growth. This means that all the extremes of the region have favorable soil, temperature, rainfall, infrastructure and altitude that supports the production of papaya (Green Life Crop Protection Africa, 2018).

Agriculture is the bulwark of the East African economy yet we suffer from food insecurity. The agricultural sector in East Africa, as it is in the whole of Africa, is faced with numerous challenges that are limiting the desired growth of the sector. For instance, the underdeveloped and under-exploited food cum cash crop Papaya value chain, in spite of the available conducive production and business environments, among other value chains, is contributing significantly to the poor economic status of the community.

For example, in the Western part of Kenya, the average household farm holding in the county is 0.5Ha. With this size of land, the production of sufficient food crops, especially maize, for the household, each with an average size of five, is not possible. But due to the previous challenges experienced by farmers in their attempt at adopting commercial production of crops that, besides being ecologically adaptable to the local climate, are profitable on the minimal farm sizes, the concept of association production and marketing has never been exploited, leaving farmers open to manipulation by market agents.

The challenges facing the agricultural sector in Vihiga County include the following:

Continuous land subdivision resulting in the reduced economic viability of land for the purpose of agriculture in the county. The main reason behind the massive and continuous subdivision of land in Vihiga County is the increasing population in the county mounting pressure on the little land available. At the moment, the population density in the county is 436.4 per square kilometer (KNBS Census, 2013).

Inability of the farming community to effectively access markets for produce as unified selling entities.

There is also declining agricultural yields mainly as a result of reduced soil fertility that emanates from poor agricultural practices such as over cultivation.

Based on our gross margin analysis, it is possible for a farmer to utilize 1/8 of an acre to earn a monthly income of $ 220 out of papaya farming thereby solving the above-mentioned issues.

Justification/Significance of the Study

The papaya tree thrives in the tropics such as Africa where temperatures range between 16.2 to 26.5 degrees centigrade as the optimum temperatures. Papaya is easily destroyed by frost but it can still survive in areas with temperatures as high as 30-32 degrees centigrade. The plan requires well drained soils, which means it can even thrive in black cotton soil as long as the drainage is well planned and precipitation ranges between 800 and 1200mm annually. An altitude of 1500m to sea level, which is the average altitude in East Africa is what papaya needs to thrive. Lastly, the hermaphroditic/bisexual varieties ensure maximum yields of the fruit and latex since they do not have the non-fruiting male plants in their plant population. In areas whether there is limited arable land, it is possible to set aside 1/8 an acre for papaya growing and 24×45 feet for Ganoderma mushroom production. In the same parcel of land, the farmer can still keep bees for honey that is drawn from the papaya leaf’s nectar whilst the bees execute cross pollination. Furthermore, the spacing of 2x2m from one plant to the next leaves room for intercropping with complementary plants such as sunflower and chilies. The fruit can be harvested from the 9th month all the way to the 5th year of the crop cycle meaning the economic benefits of the fruit tree can be realized in under one year unlike other fruit trees. Papaya are not very labor intensive and may only require irrigation in extreme drought. Harvesting can be done when the fruit is ¼ ripe to ensure minimal postharvest wastage during transportation and eliminate the need for refrigeration.

The nutraceutical properties of the product can be enhanced if the fruit is organically grown hence free of artificial chemicals that upset the human physiology leading diseases. Since the waste from processing can be converted into organic manure and fertilizer, the farmer can easily obtain it at a subsidized farm input to enable him or her to maximize on the potential of their crop.

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