Zim Universities Produce Mopane Porridge…
3 April 2024
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Three Zimbabwean universities have collaborated to create a nutritious porridge fortified with mopane worms to address micro-nutrient deficiencies in communities across the country.

The porridge, made from pearl millet, baobab powder, and ground mopane worms, is rich in protein, healthy fats, iron, and zinc.

The goal is to create a culturally accepted food product that can improve diets and combat iron deficiency, especially in children.

The University of Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi University of Technology, and Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology partnered with UK universities and various organisations to develop the innovative solution.

The project aligns with the Zimbabwean government’s Education 5.0 model, which emphasises using local resources to solve local problems.

The Head of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences at UZ, Dr Tonde Matsungo said, “Working with locally available resources is in line with the university’s and the national mantra of the heritage-based education 5.0 where we solve our problems. We are trying to use what we have locally.

Instead of waiting for donors to bring porridge, we want to make sure that we can make our own using our natural resources which tend to be neglected by communities. We are trying to go back to our roots to make sure that people go back to consuming our traditional delicacies.”

“We monitor and compare baseline and end point to see if indeed food had an impact on their physiology.

This is a two-armed trial meaning that half of these are receiving the product with mopane worms and the other half is receiving a product without mopani worms but with all other ingredients. So far we are monitoring them daily, their intake, compliance, adherence and it seems the porridge is being received well in both arms,” said Insects for Nutrition Study’s co-principal investigator, Dr Prosper Chopera.

The chairperson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at CUT, Dr Faith Manditsera said, “The in-vitro bioavailability has already shown that this product has the potential to improve the nutritional status of people. So with the scientific evidence that is also going to come from the feeding trial, we would want to upscale and commercialise the product, we intend to train them so that they can come up with the same product at household level. The production of the porridge might be costly for rural communities so we need to also make sure they can make their own.”

Researchers working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Forestry Commission and the Food and Nutrition Council are conducting feeding trials in Gwanda district, where researchers are assessing the porridge’s effectiveness in addressing micronutrient deficiencies in 220 children aged seven to 13.

Food and Nutrition Council’s multi-sectorial coordination unit manager, Mr Alpha Ndlovu said, “One of the key challenges that we have observed in Mat South is the issue of diet quality, we have a challenge of poor diets for children, women of childbearing age and also households.

So this project comes in to breach the gaps in diet quality in terms of promoting the consumption of locally available foods to enhance the quality of diets. This project we are working on is bringing different stakeholders from FNC, academia, to try and come up with a locally grown solution to address the micro-nutrient gaps that are observed in the province as well as in this district.”

To ensure the sustainability of the project, the Forestry Commission is working with communities to develop mopane worm-rearing sites, ensuring a consistent supply of this vital ingredient.

Additionally, communities are being trained to produce the porridge themselves at a household level.

ZBC News