Tanzania: Lucrative Business Behind a Nutritious Pulses Food

THIS year, on October 16, World Food Day (WFD) was celebrated worldwide.

It was observed under the theme "Our Actions Are Our Future Healthy Diets for A #Zero- Hunger World ".

In Tanzania these celebrations took place in Singida region. WFD was established with an idea of using the platform to address hunger and poverty.

Celebrated on October 16 every year, the day was chosen as a remembrance of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which was founded on October 16, 1945. In Singida, the day involved a display of traditional food and meat, cultural presentations and other activities promoting food and nutrition security.

These activities stands to support actualization of goals 1, 2, 3, 8 and 10 of UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which represents No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Reduced Inequality respectively.

The goals with a shelf life of fifteen years are anticipated to have transformed the world by 2030. Well, this year's celebrations came at the time when reverberating calls for food security are echoing the four poles of African continent.

Whether it is by design or accident, the biggest emphasis has been put on eradicating hunger and less on addressing nutrition part of the problem, and least on business opportunities behind them. According to year 2019's FAO statistics, Africa is a home to 257 million hungry people, where 237 million people are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So these figures give sort of justification to those who strives to make sure that people's stomachs are full. But it is far from truth that these commendable efforts can't go in tandem with addressing malnourishment problem in Africa.

According to United Nations, 2 billion people in the world do not get enough essential vitamins and minerals from food. Global Hunger Index continues to indicate that many of the affected are expectedly in poor countries.

The global entity further elucidates, nearly 48 per cent of Africa's population relies on cereals and root staples that lacks vital micronutrients. The underlying reason to this is that millions have no access to or cannot afford foods such as vegetables, fruits and animal products that are rich in micronutrients.

In light of the above, there have been strong efforts to promote consumption of pulses in Tanzanian population now than any time before. Cost effective Like animal products, pulses are rich in protein.

However, apart from having low glycerine index, which reduces chances of contacting diabetes and being free from cholesterol whose concentration in the body leads to heart problems, pulses are cheaper than animal meat.

The current local price for animal meat is 7000 shillings a kilo, whereas a kilo of pigeon pea is around 1000 shillings. This means money meant for buying one kilo of animal meat can afford to buy seven kilos of pigeon pea.

Simply put, a person switching from meat to pigeon pea is poised to get more protein; more iron and manganese with little or no additional costs. Nonetheless, it needs a properly choreographed promotional strategy to get the majority out of thinking that pulses are inferior food.

In 'Swahilities' settings for instance, a neighbourhood will be proud to openly display her meal composed of meat than the one with beans or green grams. Whoever cooks meal composed of pulses, does so in stealthy and it only happens when she is facing some economic hardships.

And the day when neighbours will notice that such has been the case for many days then that will be an official topic in the next 'backbiting meetings'. So deepened are the roots that even the upper and middle class, who are mostly educated, are forced to prove their economic muscle by showing to what extent they shun eating pulses.

After celebrating this year's World Food Day, it is prudent to ask ourselves if at all these efforts to end hunger are also directed towards zeroing hidden hunger. The unsung pulses business opportunity Pigeon pea, chick pea, green gram and cow peas, are all pulses.

Traditionally, they are consumed as sauce, usually eaten with some other starch source food like ugali, rice and cassava. However, little is known to entrepreneurs that they can generate some more cash if developed in to cakes, biscuits and spaghetti.

Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Ilonga, Morogoro, is one such a good example of few institutions that have embarked on promoting new technologies of pulses. My conversation with them unearthed some hidden gems about pulses business.

Every kilo of pigeon pea spent in making a cake brings back around 2,000 shillings profits; and a single kilo spent on baking a spaghetti gives a return of 8,000 shillings. Some few entrepreneurs have started in Manyara and Kagera, though the propensity to make them doesn't equal its capacity to give returns.

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