Smallholder farmers are set to benefit from a simple technology which offers a guide on value addition of farm produce.
The technology known as electronic handbook which was launched recently by TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization, provides key steps of adding value to various food commodities as a result minimizing food wastage and boosting farmers’ income.
The technology which is a guide on food fortification also targets millers.
Food fortification, also known as enrichment, refers to the addition of one or more vitamins or essential minerals to a food product.
The e-handbooks contains reference for agro-businesses looking for information such as; the basic business systems and practices that are required for agri-businesses to survive, tips on fortification, technologies required in the process, laws governing fortification among other things.
Johnson Kiragu, TechnoServe’s Program Manager, says that fortification is key to overcoming major micronutrient deficiencies in Kenya but for agro-processors to be able to fortify their products effectively, they need to apply certain technologies. Kiragu says they target businesses producing or intending to produce nutritious food products such as fortified flours and edible oils and fats.
The Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act of 2012 requires that all packaged maize ,wheat flour, maize meal, salt and cooking fats and oils to be fortified with basic nutrients. The then Ministry of Public Health pushed for fortification of basic food items after studies revealed high essential nutrients deficiency among children and women in the country.
DEMAND FOR FORTIFIED PRODUCTS
Under the law, such goods should only be allowed on shelves if they bear Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) certification showing they contain required levels of basic elements like iron, vitamins, and essential minerals.
However, up to now only a few processors have complied with this requirement.
Kiragu notes that there is a problem among the SMEs in getting the right technology to comply with the mandatory fortification requirements, a gap the organization stepped in to seal by training smallholder farmers to become processors and also help them access right technologies.
He adds that they target small growing businesses with between 5 and 250 employees. They have so far supported 33 processors directly and trained 183 others. The initiative in implemented in collaboration with other partners including; Ministry of Health, Kenya Bureau of Standards, United Nations Agency for International Development (USAID) and a host of volunteer experts from across the globe operating under an outfit known as Partners in Food Solutions (PFS).
The e-handbook demystifies fortification and creates consumer demand for fortified products which will act as a precursor for the sustainability of the fortification agenda, Kiragu said.
“After we had identified processors, we put them through training and provided them with materials to go and use but now have gone a step further to produce an e-handbook to make it a self -learning module and reach more people,” said Kiragu, adding the e-handbook also contains a lot of information for consumers, for instance what are the benefits of consuming a product that is fortified and how fortification is done.