Amaranth can easily be mistaken for just another wandering weed. Yet, while some people sparingly use the plant as vegetables, Ann Muthoni, a nutrition expert is making unique flour out of it, which she sells through various supermarkets across the country.
After arriving in Kenya in 1997 from Sweden, where she first heard about the flour, Muthoni looked for Dr. Davidson Mwangi, who had already ventured into amaranth farming. For four years, she accompanied Dr. Mwangi to teach and sensitize farmers on amaranth farming. But she later took to farming, making her first harvest in 2003. Using the sales and marketing skills she had learned while assisting Dr. Mwangi, Muthoni started outsourcing amaranth grains from farmers across the country and selling them to local processing companies. And in 2008, she had enough exposure and experience to start her processing plant, in Ruai, under the brand name Annico Enterprise.
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Speaking to Farmbiz Africa, Ann revealed that her company produces one tonne of amaranth flour products every day, which includes toasted amaranth porridge flour, whole grains puffed amaranth, baby weaning formula, and fortified maize flour, packaged in 250g, 500g, and 2kg.
A 2010 FAO report on promoting the growth and development of smallholder farmers and food security, high-value crops are regarded as a key to the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers. The report observes that most smallholder farmers especially in the developing world are rigid to change, hence hurting their farm production.
The report cites a case study of smallholder farmers in South Africa who have stuck to maize farming for many years, receiving low yields due to depleted soils. The report offers those farmers an alternative to planting legumes like peas and soya beans which are high-value crops and ideal for nitrogen fixation.
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Although she has contracted farmers across the country to deliver her produce, she lamented that the lack of a steady supply of leaves is slowing her down. She, however, describes the business as rewarding, after getting contracted to stock 52 Tuskys supermarket branches across the country.
Amarath flour has saturated fats, low cholesterol, and sodium. It is also a good source of Iron, Magnesium, and Phosphorus, and is also a very good source of Manganese and folic acid, which is good for mothers and children.
Muthoni’s success shows that good earnings can be made from high-value crops, most of which are ignored by many farmers. Grain amaranth, after planting, grows with little maintenance. It can be harvested thrice in a year and a kilogram retails for KSh50 ($.50).