* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A Smart Food Reality Show will be launched on television this coming Sunday 5 March. This is the result of a unique collaboration between scientists and media with a new approach to popularize healthy and drought tolerant foods.
Promoting the health benefits of drought resilient crops could be one answer to the country’s devastating drought situation. This year 2.7 million people are affected according to the International Red Cross, and the government has declared a national disaster.
Droughts have become an annual problem in Kenya and a more sustainable way of living will benefit both farmers and the general population. Crops such as millets, sorghum and legumes are highly drought resilient while also being highly nutritious, which will help combat malnutrition among children and the most vulnerable in society.
The Smart Food Reality Show is an initiative of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an implementing partner of the Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program funded by U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future through the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Smart Food is the smart way for the future and our aim is to take this awareness campaign to a global audience. Crops such as millets and sorghum can tolerate higher temperatures and use a lot less water. So these crops are usually the last ones standing during times of drought. We need consumers to realize their benefit, go out and buy more of them, so farmers can confidently grow more and earn sustainably. It’s a win-win situation,” said David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT.
“The Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program is supporting the ICRISAT Smart Food initiative because it is part and parcel of the technologies to increase the productivity of the drought tolerant crops value chain. We aim to promote farming as a business, improve food security, incomes and increase access to more nutritious foods to Kenyan communities,” commented Dr. Romano Kiome, Chief of Party of the Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program.
The TV program will be aired on Kenya Television Network at 5pm on Sunday 5 March. The 13 episode show is a reality and drama series that highlights the use and importance of smart food, through a cooking competition. The show takes a competitive format as 9 cooking enthusiasts battle it out for the big prize in a dramatic cooking challenge.
The winner walks away with a full scholarship to the prestigious Strathmore Professional Culinary Program 2017. Each group takes a cooking challenge every week and eliminates the lowest performing members as the rest proceed to the next level. The show does not only supply nutritional and culinary education on smart food but is also laced with emotional scenes as contestants deal with real teamwork challenges.
Smart Food includes grains like sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, chickpea, cowpea, greengram and groundnut. We have branded them as Smart Food because they fit three criteria.
Good for the consumer: They are highly nutritious and healthy. High in protein, vitamins and micronutrients. For example millets are highly digestible and are gluten free. Legumes on the other hand are an affordable protein. Escalating levels of diabetes can be avoided or managed by sorghum and millets because they have a low glycemic index. They are high in antioxidants – fighting against heart diseases, life style disorders and cancer.
Good for the planet: These crops are critical in the drylands as they survive the harshest of environments and are most resilient hence climate smart crops. Millets, for example, are the last crop standing in times of drought. Smart Food crops have close to the lowest water and carbon footprints of all the crops.
Good for the farmer: The climate resilience of these crops means they are a good risk management strategy for farmers. Legumes have an important contribution to soil nutrition and when rotated with other crops, even increase the water use efficiency of the entire crop rotation. Their multiple uses and untapped demand means they have a lot more potential. Unlike the other crops they have not yet reached a yield plateau and have great potential for productivity increases.
The Smart Food initiative takes on two different approaches targeting two key audiences.
1. Promoting dietary diversity and utilization of smart food in rural communities in 6 counties in Kenya – Busia, Siaya, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kitui, Makueni and Tharaka Nithi.
2. Promoting utilization of Smart Food targeting consumers nationwide through a social media campaign and the TV reality show.
The overall goal of the campaign targeting urban consumers, is to promote utilization of Smart Food for better nutrition of consumers as well as to create a demand pull for smart food thereby benefiting the smallholder farmers.