- Farmers are earning big from adding value to green gram and cassava from which they make confectionary products such as cakes, bread and muffins which they pack and sell, writes Lominda Afedraru.
- The head of micro biology and biotechnology at UIRI, Dr Deborah Wendiro, who came up with the idea of adding value to cassava and green gram for baking cake explains that usually children in rural areas where cassava and green gram are grown are faced with the challenge of stunted growth because they end up consuming these products which are cooked in a traditional way on day to day basis.
Most people engaged in baking confectionaries such as bread, cakes, muffins and biscuits among others usually rely on wheat as their major ingredient.
However, most of the wheat flour in Uganda is imported into the country because a few farmers are engaged in growing the crop, which does not meet the domestic demand.
As such, scientists at Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) have developed a technology where they are using cassava flour mixed with green gram (also known as mung beans ) to produce cakes which they say contain better food nutrient unlike usage of wheat ingredients.
Green gram are mainly grown by farmers in eastern and northern parts of Uganda.
It is a delicacy for people living in this part of the country and scientists say it contains more than 10 food nutrients. These include among others protein, folate, fibre, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron and it is a rich source of energising carbs.
The head of micro biology and biotechnology at UIRI, Dr Deborah Wendiro, who came up with the idea of adding value to cassava and green gram for baking cake explains that usually children in rural areas where cassava and green gram are grown are faced with the challenge of stunted growth because they end up consuming these products which are cooked in a traditional way on day to day basis.
To her it is important to add value to the agricultural produce to enrich the food nutrient which if consumed by children in rural areas will help solve the nutrient deficiency.
Dr Wendiro explains that it is a matter of measuring cassava flour of a specific quantity depending on the amount of cake to be baked.
The flour is then mixed with green gram paste which must be wet at the time of mixing. This means green gram is soaked in water over night and it is ground to come up with paste.
Other ordinary cake ingredients including sugar and cake flour which can be in chocolate form is mixed into the ingredient and baked under the oven to come up with a cake ready for consumption.
Dr Wendiro and her team of scientists at UIRI with collaboration with scientists from the University of Netherlands manufactured a cake flavour known as yoba, containing bacteria which can also be used for making yoghurt.
This product is already out for sale and confectionary industries and individuals usually make their order at the Institute where Dr Wendiro and team supply upon payment. Each pack of 200 grammes costs Shs2, 000. Phyllis Ajok, a farmer in Lira district is minting more cash from her green gram enterprise. Ajok embraced value addition after attaining training at UIRI in 2016.
“While the middlemen would earn big, I was taking home less money. I used to sell each kilogramme at Shs2,300. And from an acre I would earn Shs3.5m,” Ajok explains. The figure grew in 2017 after adopting value addition.
“I do not sell beans to middlemen anymore. With the skills I attained at UIRI, from the same acre I earn more than Shs10m in profit,” she says.
Bernard Ojakol is another farmer who has been involved in green gram farming. “I started value addition in 2014. Before then, I was being cheated by the traders, who sold the beans at twice the price I sold to them,” Ojakol says, adding, “I went to a friend who was involved in confectionary business to get some tips on how I could start the venture.
He gave me the knowledge and I have never looked back,” he says. Ojakol makes muffins and cakes from this venture. He supplies to major towns in east and northern Uganda. Ojakol sells each muffin at Shs500. He earns about Shs200, 000 per week. “Supermarkets delay to pay but when they do, the money is good,” he says.
Science experts from the Institute of Medicine in USA in a their publication about diet and nutrition explain that green gram provides magnesium which is essential for body metabolism. The body metabolism will be capable of producing energy, synthesize protein and keep nerves and muscles working. Magnesium is also non-negotiable for building strong bones. It provides manganese a component of enzymes capable of controlling cholesterol in the body.
The body is in position to use manganese to produce compounds that support and lubricate cartilage and bones. People who have challenges of weight control are advised to consume green gram because it helps in weight loss and lowers blood pressure.
Using yoba to develop lactic acid
Apart from cake bakery innovation, the team is using yoba mixed with cassava to produce lactic acid.
According to Dr Wendiro this lactic acid can be used by industries manufacturing clothes, shoes, making implants and eye dressers.
She notes that Uganda spends a lot of money in importing the chemical type of lactic acid for the industries engaged in processing the above mentioned initiatives yet the same can be processed using local material
What happens is that cassava flour mixed with yoba is fermented for 72 hours and the liquid which is processed in the process is filtered to come up with lactic acid.