Improved porridge flour popular in urban households, study says
By Mwangi Mumero
Kenyans in urban households have increasingly taken up improved porridge flour to boost their nutrition, according to a study by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
A similar trend has been observed in Uganda as more urban poor seek cheaper and more viable alternatives to fight malnutrition and over–nutrition.
In Kenya, improved flour contained maize, beans, bananas, orange-fleshed pumpkin, carrots and amaranth leaves; in Uganda, it included maize, soybean, amaranth, beans and moringa leaves.
CIAT researchers say malnutrition remains a serious problem in East Africa. Poor consumers are willing to pay a premium for healthier foods, pointing to a new strategy for improving nutrition at a large scale
“Producing nutritious foods affordable to this consumer category, especially women and children who are highly hit by malnutrition, could assist in changing this narrative,” observed Christine Chege, a scientist at CIAT and the study’s lead author.
According to Dr Chege, soft porridge is widely used to complement children’s food and it is widely consumed by lactating and pregnant women in East Africa.
About 94 per cent of consumers in both countries would pay a premium for more nutritious porridge flour, results show, with the richer Kenyans willing to pay a higher price compared to Ugandans.
However, in Uganda, where porridge has a bigger role in the diet, about 64 per cent of people would pay at least 50 per cent more for the better flour. In Uganda, informing people about the flour’s nutritional benefits plays an important role in convincing them to pay the premium, the researchers found.
For Kenyans, higher nutritional benefits are not a significant selling point for the enriched flour. However, the latter have more spending power to purchase a more expensive product. Older family heads would also pay more than younger ones, researchers observed. The same stands for households with young children, as they are more aware of the nutrients their offspring need to develop.
More demand for enriched foods would also boost the demand for individual agricultural commodities used for the enriched product, bringing more income to farmers but also could have the potential to improving their nutrition through consumption of those commodities.
“If consumers are provided with the right information, they are willing to pay even if a bit more for nutritious food. They will also make effort to check on the kind of food they consume as long as the foods are available and accessible to them”, said Dr Chege.