A number of farmers in Nyanza have discovered a highly nutritious plant that is quite promising — chia seed.
One of the reasons chia seed is fast gaining popularity is because it boosts libido, a fact backed by credible research and nutritional experts.
Lilian Aketch, a nutritional and dietetic based in Nairobi says Chia seeds are super nutritious.
“If taken in adequate amounts, chia seeds improve brain health, which in turn increases one’s sexual desire. The seeds are a good source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids which the body cannot produce. The seeds are also high in fibre, calcium and other minerals,” the nutritionist says.
That indeed explains the fascination with the crop among farmers who have already embraced it.
To farmers who have embraced the rare and tiny black seed, chia is like planted omena without the smell.
But chia seed is definitely not a word most Kenyans have heard, though it has captivated the curiosity of small scale farmers in the region.
Chia is now a seasoning for every meal served in their homes.
“Think of it in the same way you do essential everyday seasonings like salt and pepper. But instead of adding a pinch of flavour, you’ll be adding a dose of health and energy to your food,” says 67-year-old Isaac Ahoya, a chia farmer.
Ahoya says since he began eating chia, he has seen a significant change in his health.
“I feel I have the energies of a young man. I can work longer hours on the farm and perform other intense duties without running out of energy. My wife doubts my age these days,” he says.
Ahoya, is expecting his second harvest in a few weeks.
He cannot hide his excitement as he shows off his farm where the happy crops dance with pride to the rhythm of the blowing wind in the hills of Nyahera, northern Kisumu.
Trial and error basis
“These are magic seeds. A little bit of it goes a long way. I take two tablespoonfuls a day and my energy bursts,” said Ahoya.
The chairperson of Dago Thim Momentum — a local farmers’ association — that is spearheading the roll out of the chia project, grew his first lot of chia in 2015 and has no regrets.
Ahoya says it took locals some time before agreeing to allocate a piece of their land for the super food.
“It was a trial and error venture for me, but I was willing to take the risk and I can say it was worth it,” says Ahoya.
Ahoya says what has given him momentum is the fact that there is a ready market for his produce, courtesy of a firm that introduced growing of the crop in the area.
Momentum Trust — a Danish organisation based in Kenya — began its farming venture in Siaya County in 2013.
Christian Hoff, CEO of the NGO says the group started with 110 small-scale farmers in Siaya, but now, it has expanded to Kisumu and recently Oyugis, with more than 1,550 farmers who have adopted chia farming.
“Initially, we focused on educating and training small-scale farmers in modern agricultural techniques and provide them with farm inputs and seeds on loan,” says Hoff.
He adds, “When we realised that the climate in Siaya is a bit poor, we decided to bring in crops with high value, like chia which can thrive under minimum rainfall.”
Where is the market?
The NGO has created a ready market for farmers through Aliva Foods company on [email protected]
The receiving companies use chia seeds to make chia butter, energy drinks, porridge, powder among other products.
Esther Ouko, a 65-year-old farmer and a vice chair of Got Koduor Momentum farmers group, consumes chia seeds to manage health conditions.
Ouko says she experienced regular joint pains and would feel exhausted after undertaking light duties in the farm and around the house.
“I have been eating chia seeds religiously ever since the miraculous seeds were introduced to me and at one point I thought it could be an overdose, but so far my health is in top shape,” says Ouko.
The organisation confesses that they faced stiff resistance as they tried to roll out the chia seeds project.
Some of them even refused the free samples that were being distributed.
But when they consumed them and saw the change in their health after a few months, many were converted.
“I consumed all the seeds I had been given for planting out of curiosity... but when I realised that despite their tiny size, chia seeds mean serious business, I got seeds and I am waiting for my first harvest”.
Chia seeds can be eaten raw, on their own or with any meal.
Given that the seeds are rich in calcium (double that in milk), some people add them in porridge meant for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
The nutritionist explains: “the seeds have high levels of fatty oils, fibre, protein and vitamins which aid in proper brain development of babies. The food also enhances your breast milk production rate naturally.”
With the world awakening of the massive health benefits of chia, experts say the demand is rising steadily in African and European markets.