27 Mar, 2018

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Farmers showcasing different recipes of quinoa
Government through the Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee (ATCC) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) recently approved release of seven varieties of quinoa in Malawi. The seven varieties include Brightest Brilliant Rainbow (BBR), Bio Bio, Black Seeded, Cherry Vanilla, Multihued, QQ74 and Titicaca.

Quinoa was introduced in Malawi in 2012, through a collaborative research work of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and Washington State University, for adaptation studies. The research was spearheaded by Crop and Soil Sciences Department of LUANAR. Preliminary trials were conducted at Bunda Campus of LUANAR and Bembeke Sub-Research Station of the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in Dedza under irrigated conditions in 2012 and continued to date.

According to the Principal Investigator for the project, Professor Moses Maliro, farmers in Malawi are now allowed to cultivate the approved varieties of quinoa on their farms for home consumption or sale.

“Quinoa is gaining popularity globally because while it is consumed like a cereal (carbohydrate source), it is complete in protein - containing all essential amino acids in addition to calcium, phosphorous, iron and other micronutrients. Locally grown quinoa is therefore expected to contribute to food and nutritional security in the country. It is also gluten-free making it more preferred than wheat especially by those that are allergic to gluten,” said Professor Maliro.

He says due to quinoa’s current limited global supply (mainly coming from South American–Andean countries), it is sold at high retail prices in developed countries as well as in the cities of the developing countries, saying this current status of quinoa supply presents an opportunity of both domestic and export markets for prospective quinoa farmers.

“Quinoa is also promoted because of its wide adaptation to environments ranging from xxxx sea level to 4,000 metres above sea level and from agro-ecological areas with as low rainfall as 200mm in a crop growing season. Quinoa therefore adds to a list of crops that can be used in climate change adaptation. Quinoa has been grown successfully under both rain-fed and irrigated farming,” he said.

Regarding utilization of quinoa grain, Total Land Care (TLC) started to train some of the communities on various food recipes for consumption. Some of the processing activities that farmers are engaged in with the support from the TLC include milling the quinoa grain with maize and peanuts to produce a flour used in making porridge (a local Likuni Phala) to feed young children. Increased intake of this recipe of porridge by under-five year old children is expected to help reduce stuntedness because of the high nutritional value of quinoa grain.

“During the on-farm studies farmers discovered that quinoa leaf is a tasty vegetable. The young tender leaf can be used as a relish; it isprepared and consumed like other leafy vegetables. Preliminary analyses of the leaf showed it to be highly nutritional,” said Professor Maliro.

He further said training programs by extension workers to encourage the cultivation and consumption of quinoa will be vital in widening production of the crop throughout Malawi.

Research is expected to continue focusing various aspects including plant nutrition, pests and diseases, post-harvest handling, processing and utilization to facilitate integration of quinoa into Malawian food system.