KENYA: Banana products used to fight lifestyle diseases
30.11.2017-Nairobi/ With the emergence of lifestyle diseases mostly attributed to the modern day diets many people have started looking for natural but creative foods for healthier living.
In Gatundu north Kiambu County, a group of women have ventured into activities that will ensure people enjoy most of their fancied snacks, mainly viewed as unhealthy including cakes, biscuits and Crips but made with healthy ingredients.
To this group called the united women initiative group, good health is a priority. The group, made of 35 members and formed in 2015 first focused on sensitizing elderly persons on consumption of organic farm produce to reduce lifestyle diseases.
The group whose slogan is has now graduated from focusing on the aged to making crisps, ugali, porridge, chapatis, mandazi, biscuits and cakes from banana fruits, cassava, strawberry and sweet potatoes.
Irene Nyambura Mukuha, the group’s coordinator says that a bunch of bananas containing 10-15 pieces of banana, a slice of cassava, some strawberry leaves and a piece of sweet potato produces a kilo of flour which the group sells at Sh200.
Mukuha says that a banana fruit is a versatile crop which is as good as wheat and maize in making certain fast-moving products.
"A banana fruit is like maize which can be used diversely. It has a lot of nutritional value which helps our bodies preventing us from lifestyle diseases,” says Mukuha.
They buy raw banana fruits, cassava, strawberry and sweet potatoes from women farmers within Gatundu North and amongst themselves which they then manually peel, chop into small pieces, clean and dry the product for a week, before they are milled into flour using ordinary posho mill machines.
They later converge at different locations depending on their arrangements to prepare the final products which they sell to locals.
"We meet twice a month at ward levels in a location that members agree. When we meet, apart from preparing our products we also encourage each other to do exercises so as to maintain our bodies, because our aim is to fight lifestyle diseases as we empower women,” she adds.
In a good month, the group which meets to make the products twice a month makes Sh.40, 000 which they reinvest. Although the group does not have a specific market, members are mandated to popularize their products during women gatherings.However, they are more interested in encouraging residents to use natural farm produces to tame lifestyle diseases than making of profit.
Their flour, according to Mukuha is full of calcium which she says maintains strong bones and allows faster, effective movement of body muscles and nerves to effectively carry messages between the brain and other body parts.
Muraru, Ndimaku, Mutore are some of the traditional bananas that the farmers use in making the flour.
In their farms, the group members who are also farmers don’t use fertilizers, but rather organic manure which they say does not distort the natural flavor and nutritional value of crops.
"We advise farmers to stop using fertilizers in their farms to maintain soil nutrients which are healthy for crops unlike fertilizers which sweep away organic content from the soil leaving chemicals used in the making of the manure,” said Jane Wanjiru Mwangi, one of the members.
Although the farmers make the flour and other products depending on their demand, they do not tire to sensitize locals on nutritional value of their products.
"Reception of our products is awesome especially by the elderly who value the nutritional value of natural farm yields,” Mwangi says.
Meanwhile, lack of milling machines, poor marketing of their products, lack of enough capital to start an organic products factory are some of the challenges the group is facing.
According to Peris Mugure, another member, the group wishes to open a factory for organic products and set up a hotel dealing with natural products to lessen lifestyle related diseases.
With enough capital, the group further hopes to produce more kilograms of the nutritional flour which they say will help reduce the cost of medication, citing that preventive measures were equally key to good health.
"The initiative, though small has empowered many women in Gatundu North. We have fought hard to emancipate women from being objects of men to making them women of substance. With awareness and involvement of women in businesses, the initiative has transformed many,” says Mugure.
The group also hopes to spread wings to other sub counties and the country at large in years to come, so as to continue sensitizing Kenyans on the best traditional eating practices.
The group is led by women but a few men have been recruited to support them in certain activities.
Joseph Gitau, a member of the group narrates that after joining the initiative, his perception of women has tremendously changed, noting that women are no longer objects of men but drivers of the economy.
"With these kinds of engagements, women in this area have made tremendous development. In fact, the area MP is a member of our initiative and he received total support from this group,” notes Gitau.
The initiative has also created employment opportunities for product distributors who are mainly women, ensuring that they no longer have to depend on men for provision.
Kenya News Agency.
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