Eking a Living From Doodo

Amaranth, locally known as ‘doodo’, now comes with a different taste.

Ordinarily, the vegetable is prepared with salt and served as a side sauce on meals. But amaranth can also be eaten as porridge. Kiwenda Hoti-Culture Farmers (KIHOCFA), a group of farmers in Busukuma sub-county in Wakiso district, ekes a living from making porridge out of the grain from the doodo plant.

Margaret Kayiza, the founder and coordinator of KIHOCFA, says the idea of growing amaranth was popularised in Busukuma and Gombe sub-counties by George William Bukenya, the deputy medical director in charge of clinical services at Mengo hospital. Bukenya bought seeds and gave them to farmers for free together with a team of instructors to teach them.

Kayiza attended the farmers training, where she learnt how to plant, harvest and process the grain into flour. She was also given free sample seeds. When she shared the idea with her group members, they welcomed it and they have never looked back. Amaranth has many species, but the most common ones are the ornamental amaranth and grain amaranth. Ornamental amaranth is used to make food colour and syrups. It is widely grown in India and Mexico.

Grain amaranth is the easiest to grow. Although it also produces leaves, it gives plenty of grain, which is harvested, sundried, and milled into porridge flour. It matures within two and a half months, requires little attention and can survive hot seasons. And this is what the group uses to get the flour for porridge.

“For one hectare, you expect and earn between Shs 3m and Shs 4m,” Kayiza said. “Unlike maize where the husks of grain take up many kilogrammes after milling, for amaranth, once you harvest 100kg of grain, you are likely to get 100kgs of flour.”

“We have never regretted doing this business because what we get is bigger than what we put in. I spend less on the garden, but harvest more money from the porridge flour.”

How it works:

Just like any other porridge, you mix two full table spoons of flour with little cold water to dissolve, add a half litre of hot water and boil for 10 minutes. You can add sugar and milk for a better taste. Kayiza says the product was tested and approved by Makerere University, school of Food Science.

“The benefits from the porridge range from nutrients good for children to boosting sexual energy in men it also helps improve one’s appetite, raises CD count among Aids patients, and could cure diabetes and stress,” she said.

Mengo hospital’s Bukenya said: “Amaranth contains amino acids that boost the immune system. The protein in the porridge works effectively on malnourished children the vitamins and energy for pregnant women.”

He said amaranth contained all the 14 amino acids needed by a human body. Other crops have just eight or even less. These make the porridge very important for HIVAids patients.

“If someone with a low CD4 count feeds on this porridge, their count will raise steadily. I have witnessed such cases where a patient at a point of death constantly feeds on [this] porridge and they are now very energetic,” Bukenya said.

Testimony:

Daniel Mwesigye, a resident of Kawempe, says he takes doodo porridge for health reasons.

“I couldn’t get out of bed I was too weak and couldn’t stomach anything. So one day, my mother came with amaranth from one of her visits, she prepared the porridge and surprisingly I managed to eat some of it. I regained my strength,” Mwesigye told The Observer.

For now, Kayiza and her group pack the flour from their home, as the group hasn’t set up a proper factory. Each one-kilogramme pack sells for Shs 5,000 in a couple of supermarkets in Kampala.

Meanwhile, Bukenya has promised to link the farmers to the foreign market, if they can guarantee production in large quantities. There is a market for amaranth flour in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and India.

Source : The Observer

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