New Crop with Potential to End Hunger in East Africa Introduced

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Acclimatization of breadfruit seedlings in the greenhouse at JKUAT. PHOTO/JKUAT 

A new crop with the potential to end hunger in the larger East African region has been introduced by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). The new crop known as breadfruit is a staple crop grown in the Pacific Islands and is due to offer a ready answer to food insecurity as it grows on both the hot and wet weather. The fruit has lumpy green flesh and a potato like texture.

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According to World Vision, 25 million people in the Eastern African countries of Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia are in dire need of food and water. More than 3.5 million children are suffering from malnutrition, a condition that results from eating a diet in which nutrients are either not enough or are too much such that the diet causes health problem.

One Breadfruit weighing 3 kgs can provide a carbohydrate portion for a family of five people. The fruit can be ground into flour and used in sweet and spicy dishes, including pancakes and crisps. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as being a high source of gluten-free carbohydrate and protein. The protein in the fruit has a higher proportion of amino acids than soy.

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In Africa, the crop, which reaches optimum maturity in five years after it starts production, is only grown in the West African countries of; Benin, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria. One tree of the crop is capable of producing over 900 fruits. It produces fruits two years after planting and thrice annually after it starts production.

 According to Josh Schneider of the Global Breadfruit in the United States of America, and can be consumed at all stages of development, ripe as a fruit or mature as a vegetable, where it can replace conventional starches.

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 JKUAT Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga pledged her support to the Global Breadfruit project. She said JKUAT was privileged to be the entry point for the plant in the East and Central Africa region from where other countries could acquire tissue culture clones from.

 Breadfruit can be a solution to hunger in some parts of the East African region and the entire African continent facing irregular supply of food.