Year in year out, maize farmers in the country are complaining about poor prices for their produce, high costs of fertilizers, pests and diseases attacking their crop, irregular rain patters affecting their crop, among other issues that make maize farming a pain to the farmer. This is, of cause, despite the fact that maize is the staple food of the country. Question is, must we eat maize and related products?
Introduction of new crops such as the breadfruit could be the solution to alleviating food insecurity in the country.
Breadfruit tree is a staple crop grown in the Pacific Islands; which grows better in hot and wet weather. It has a lumpy green flesh and a potato-like texture and has a taste similar to that of cassava. The fruit has extraordinary health benefits and is loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals.
When dried and ground, the fruit produces a multi-purpose flour that has the advantage of being gluten-free. Combine all this with significant amounts of low-fat carbohydrates and it is clear to see why Kenya needs to factor breadfruit into future strategies to reduce food security challenges. This fruit could provide an alternative to wheat, rice and ugali.
The exotic fruit can be baked, fried, boiled, grilled, and more. It is eaten at all stages of development and prepared in many ways. It can be eaten ripe as a fruit or mature as a vegetable where it replaces conventional starches. Often, it is used as a potato substitute in many dishes. Small, immature fruit can be boiled, pickled or marinated.
The crop is also a tool for economic development for it stimulates the local economy with increased local food production. The crop can produce up to a tonne of fruits per tree making farming profitable for farmers. It produces fruits two years after planting and thrice annually after it starts production.
Breadfruit provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and industries to produce and sell breadfruit-based products. The fruit can be processed into baked goods such as pastries, cookies, breads, crackers, pies, or other snacks. Ripe fruit can be used to make beverages, pies, cakes, and other desserts and sweets.
In countries such as Haiti, the fruit is roasted and eaten as bread for breakfast. In Africa, the crop is only grown in the West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Benin. Research has shown that this crop can do very well in Athi River, Voi, Mtwapa, Garissa and parts of western Kenya.
Breadfruit seedlings require a lot of organic manure and plenty of water in the initial stages. The breadfruit tree takes three years to mature which is the biggest drawback in growing breadfruit. However, when the tree begins flowering and producing fruits it does so for decades and does not require any care at all. It is imperative for Kenya as a nation to promote food sustainability. Introduction of new crops such as the breadfruit is a step in the right direction.