Kenyans advised to consume beans for nutrition

The importance of iron and zinc in human nutrition has seen the Government moving towards introducing high yielding bean varieties.

Through the Kenya Agri-Nutrition Strategy (2020 to 2024) the government is focusing on securing access to safe, diverse and nutritious food by strengthening the national food chain and community production and also retention in cooking grains.

Scientists are now asking Kenyans to consume more beans that are rich in iron and zinc to address malnutrition.

Consequently, the government has come up with bean varieties with high value of Zinc and Iron including Nyota, Faida, Angaza, Cheupe that have been developed by the University of Nairobi, while varieties like Nyota are now available through Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

Calling it the Hidden Hunger, a nutrition Associate with Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Beatrice Kiage has been working with KARLO and have produced over 40 bean recipes to be able to reach more consumers, especially children and pregnant mothers, affected by malnutrition.

The latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows that 26 percent of children under the age of five are so malnourished that they have become stunted or too short for their age, with the rate of stunting being as high as 46 percent in some Counties, while across the country more than one in ten children were underweight, translating into 11 percent.

According to Dr Kiage, experts were concerned about the zinc and iron deficiency that is contributing to the high level of stunting and it is high time that ways such as introducing good bean recipes to entice children are used to upscale the adoption of beans.

Speaking during a farmer’s field day on up scaling of the beans rich in iron and zinc and introduction of the various recipes from the beans to farmers and consumers, Dr Kiage said that a while back they carried out a formative research in Kiambu, Meru and Nyeri Counties to find out some of the barriers and gaps in the bean consumption.

“Our research found out that one of the things that makes consumers shun away from eating beans was because of gas, but also because it was becoming boring especially for children as they either consumed “Githeri” or even just beans,” she noted.

Dr Kiage said together with KALRO they have developed 40 bean recipes that can appeal to the modern man and also children and address risk of getting micro nutrient deficiency in iron and zinc through improvising various cooking recipes using beans.

“One can make foods such as Kebabs, doughnuts, cakes, biscuits out of beans and this will not only be embraced by children and will also ensure adoption and consumption of beans. We are promoting these recipes at the rural population where the beans are normally consumed and also grown,” she explained.

Dr Kiage expounded saying that using beans as a vehicle that is cheap, widely consumed and interesting is never boring as one can be able to feed on beans from breakfast, lunch and even dinner.

The nutritionist also disclosed that during the research they realized that many people just know that beans are rich in protein, but notes that they also have other benefits.

“For diabetic patients, beans are important as they stabilize sugar levels, they are good for cardio vascular as they have fibre that lowers cholesterol, they control cancers and weight management, they are also good for cognitive development and also address the Non-Communicable-Diseases (NCDs),” she explained.

On her part, Lydia Kirimi, nutritionist working in Kieni West, Muguda ward in Lamuria location said that they have been training farmers on the new recipes, which the farmers are adopting and testing.

“We have today introduced nine different recipes, 3 types of chapatis, doughnuts, kebabs all made from the high yielding types of beans,” she said.

The farmers, Kirimi said, have seen the importance of the technology, realized they can do a lot with the beans and some even want to venture into business with the new recipes.

Stakeholders should promote these recipes by training farmers and also educating them on the value of the zinc and iron in beans. Farmers who want to venture into business can also do so by introducing the unique recipes, while consumers should embrace the recipes and see the value and introduce them to the children.

The process for cooking the various recipes is easy and what one requires is just to precook the beans, dry them at home, but on a larger scale they can be ground at the big millers.

Meanwhile, the iron and zinc rich bean recipes booklet dubbed, Ziron-pulse promoting the consumption and adoption of beans using a variety of ways, has been designed for extension officers community nutritionists and community health volunteers to help them provide step by step instructions to communities and households on how to prepare and consume common bean using various recipes.