Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a global pandemic that is currently affecting 3.7 million people worldwide of which 70% are found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Uganda continues to suffer from the scourge of HIV with the current prevalence of 7%. Healthcare of people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda is constrained by poor nutrition with estimates of 25% suffering from malnutrition.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Agnes Nabubuya from the Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition in October 2020 embarked on the study titled, “Development of Nutrient-dense Recipes and Products from Underutilized crops to alleviate Malnutrition among HIV/AIDS Infected persons in Western Uganda (DoNDRP)”. The study was fully funded by the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
Other members on the research team are Paddy Ainebyona, Dr. Robert Mugabi, Dr. Ivan Muzira Mukisa from the Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition and Dr. Immaculate Nakalembe from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB).
On 9th October, 2021 the research team unveiled four formulations of the neglected crops namely: Raw soup products, Instant soups, Raw porridge products and Instant porridge at Kigorobya sub-County. The Raw and Instant Nutrient-Dense porridge and soups were developed from neglected crops such as yam and yam leaves, climbing nuts, millet and cowpeas among others.
The nutritional composition for an optimal porridge is Proteins (20.4%), Crude fibre (13.26%) Carbohydrates (42.21%), Iron (26.78mg/l), Zinc (42.75 mg/l0 while the nutritional composition for an optimal soup is Proteins (25.69%), Crude fibre (20.53%), Carbohydrates (36.27%) Iron (23.14 mg/l) and Zinc (38.92mg/l).
These products were subjected to an assessment by the study community during the research dissemination workshop held in Kigorobya sub-County Community Hall in Hoima district.
The dissemination workshop brought together about 40 participants including Chairpersons of the Local Council I, Village Health Teams, farmers’ leaders, Chairpersons of cooperatives, Parish Chiefs, District production and technical staff and the representative of the Chief Administrative Officer Hoima, and people living with HIV/AIDS among others.
The Principal Investigator (PI) Dr. Agnes Nabubuya said, the project target was to carry out an inventory into the underutilized crops and develop a technology to process the selected crops and in addition, generate recipes for preparation of nutrient-dense meals and formulations for products like instant porridge flours and also, to train health facility workers and women from selected communities on using the developed recipes to make nutrient dense foods.
Dr. Nabubuya said they chose Hoima district and Kigorobya sub-County where an inventory of crops was done from farmers and other stakeholders from which mentioned underutilized crops were selected and preference made by farmers from the crops selected by the study team.
“These crops were later taken to the laboratory and analyzed for the nutrients, anti-nutrients, minerals and other properties. We were also able to do functional properties and from which we were able to develop nutrient-dense vegetable soups and porridge which were both raw and instant products”, the PI reported.
Dr. Nabubuya said the study team was back in Kigorobya to disseminate the information that was produced in the laboratory and the analysis. Besides bringing back the information, the researchers were also in Kigorobya to showcase the products made, prepare them for the targeted people so as to get feedback.
The PI said the project along the way brought on board one undergraduate and a masters student who will write a project report and publication on the works.
She said the project mainly focused on people living with HIV/AIDS because of the high level of malnutrition but the products can also be utilized by the whole population because they are nutrient-dense and acceptable to the people.
“This project has come to an end but we are hoping to apply for an extension so that we can be able to come and train the participants on how to produce the products and also monitor the nutritional effects on them”, the PI said.
Mr. Paddy Ainebyona an MSc student of Agricultural Engineering on the project reported that data on neglected crops was collected using questionnaires to highlight the underutilized crops and performing community transect walks to obtain a catalogue of these crops.
Ainebyona also said all study materials were prepared and analyzed using standard analysis protocols.
“We looked at underutilized crops that is in terms of availability and consumption. We came up with a list of 39 underutilized crops and categorized them in descending order starting with one which is liked most and came up with a list of 7 which included pumpkin leaves, yam and yam leaves, millet and climbing nut.
All crops were collected from Kigorobya sub-County, taken to Makarere University laboratories following standard operating procedures including peeling, slicing, drying but also for the leaves we had to do blanching to stop any chemical reactions, slice and assemble them for drying.
We then prepared them and turned them into flours for shelf stability and started actual activity of product development of porridge and soups and later on, decided to turn these flours into instant products”, Mr. Ainebyona explained.
Ainebyona said the products were taken into other processes like standard formulation, sensory evaluation. He said, in the current economic situation, instant products are desired because they are easy to prepare for people who do not have time.
Study community representatives endorse the products as good and important
The sub-County Chief Kigorobya, Mr. Mwesiga Rwamukaga Steven described the project as wonderful and a blessing to the community.
“The number of people living with HIV/AID is increasing with new infections among the teenagers. The nutrition status of our people here is not that good and we have many children who are malnourished
The items used in preparing these supplements are within our locality and have not been taken as being of value. But now, we have seen that they have value and we need to embrace them and strengthen our community capacity so that they can prepare them locally”, the sub-County Chief said.
The Chairperson Local Council III Kigorobya sub-County Mr. Sajjabi Nickolas thanked the people of Kigorobya for participating in the study and turning up in large numbers
“I thank Makerere University staff and students for coming to our community to sensitise the people about the available important foods. We have tasted the porridge and soups and they are very good. We request that you organize more of such forums so that the local people acquire more knowledge and skills about feeding the sick”, Mr. Sajjabi said
Chairperson Farmer’s Management Committee, Kigorobya Cooperative Savings, Mr. Bainomugisa Godfrey thanked Makerere University researchers for processing food supplements from the community neglected crops.
“We have learnt that we have been neglecting our crops which are nutritious and I request the university also to teach us how they are processing these products. The products are so nice and we request for some of these products to take them to the people at home so that they get an impression of the value of the neglected crops. We are going to mobilize our farmers to continue growing the neglected crops because we have learnt that they have important nutrients for our health”, Mr. Bainomugisa said.
The Health Inspector Kigorobya sub-County Ms. Happy Moreen hailed Makerere University for the good initiative noting that what they have developed is of good value to the people they serve.
“Generally the instant porridge was nice but I believe if we add other food values like milk and little sugar it can be sweeter than without. If the salt in the instant soup can be reduced and prepared in a way that it is not very thick, it is the best. In addition to the people living with HIV/AIDS, All the products developed can also be helpful to the children. I urge the university to bring more researchers on board to consider also children of 6 months and above because we believe that when children are no longer on exclusive breast feeding, it is better to introduce them to other food values”, said the health inspector.