Results of Amaranth Promotion in East Africa
Ex-Post Evaluation of World Renew’s Introduction and Promotion of Grain Amaranth in East Africa: 1999-2008
World Renew’s work on the introduction and promotion of grain amaranth in East Africa began in 1999 in 2 villages located the semi-arid part of the Machakos District, Kenya. Training and amaranth seed lines were provided by Davidson Mwangi, a Kenyan agronomist. Amaranth’s drought resistance and drought avoidance, it’s high protein/high lysine content, balance of amino acids and other nutrients, and its taste acceptability when mixed with maize, millet, wheat and cassava were all favorable factors.
The initial trials were in villages that had repeatedly sought food relief assistance during drought years. After 2000, World Renew’s amaranth promotion expanded to include higher rainfall areas of Western Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. During 2006-2008 the Canadian Food Grains Bank provided a total of $207,475 that enabled focused, reinforcement training in amaranth production and food preparation.In 2014 a post-facto evaluation was carried out to analyze the sustainability of World Renew’s amaranth promotional work in East Africa. Questionnaires were administered to 480 farmers from the 3 countries and participatory focus group evaluation was carried out in Kenya and Uganda. 300 out of the 480 exposed to amaranth training were found to be continuing growing amaranth. The major reason cited for discontinuing was lack of market access. The major reasons cited for continuing were positive impacts on family health, particularly on children and people living with HIV; relative ease of including amaranth flour in the daily diet within the millet or maize porridge mixtures, income generated from marketing (in Western Kenya); and the adaptability of amaranth to short rainy seasons, climatic conditions, and small farm situations.
The evaluation recommendations include: 1) further research on amaranth’s potential effect on the human immune system, 2) improving training on seed selection and the supply of high quality seed to replace lines that have crossed with wild types, 3) combining amaranth training with training on soil fertility restoration, 4) further promotion of amaranth as a nutritional supplement crop, 5) avoidance of marketing promises, and 6) sharing of amaranth learning and information among organizations working in East Africa.