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Farmers chase amaranth seeds as crop for everything

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Grain amaranth has multiple uses as a vegetable, nutrient-rich grain, livestock feed as well as industrial uses.

Currently, grain amaranth is grown on about 389 Ha producing 2,057MT of grain valued at Sh70 million. Kenya imports 10,000MT of grain amaranth annually (80 per cent of the quantities produced in the country) from Uganda and India to meet the shortfall in demand.

Once established it can withstand acute drought conditions. It is hardy, can withstand low soil fertility, early maturing (75-90 days), requires minimal attention, and is susceptible to few pests and diseases. 

Grain amaranth is nutritious and contains 16-20 per cent protein and 5-10 per cent oil. It also contains reasonable amounts of phosphorus, calcium, zinc, vitamins B, C, and E, and dietary fiber.

It contains two times the amount of calcium found in milk and is particularly rich in the amino acid lysine, which is low in cereals like maize and wheat. 

Nutritive values of cereals are enriched when blended with amaranth grain. The cooked grain is up to 90 per cent digestible making it an excellent weaning diet and a recommended food for the elderly and people who have been through a long fast or starvation. 

It is rich in the essential amino acid lysine required by the body for calcium absorption and promotion of bone growth and which is low in cereals like maize, rice and wheat. 

Through a partnership between Ripple Effect Kenyan and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), two new varieties of grain amaranth Terere Smart and Kat Gold are being commercialised by contracting farmers in Migori County to produce grain amaranth seeds to enable commercialisation of the highly sought-after climate-smart crop in Kenya.

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