A 24-year-old student of Kabarak University has found a way of converting grass into flour as Kenya seeks to address a widespread hunger crisis.
Faith Wandia, a Master of Finance Degree student, says she was motivated to innovate after coming across social media videos of starving children.
“I saw a video clip of a malnourished girl sitting on dusty ground as she helplessly looked at her younger brother, who was crawling towards an empty pot,” Wandia said.
Inspired to help the two children and many others facing hunger crisis, she thought of a way she’d use readily available material such as grass to make flour.
She settled on grass after researching on alternatives to grain in the preparation of flour.
Wandia approached her fellow students, who offered to help her realise her dream for food security.
She said she sought technical knowhow from students pursuing courses in food and medical sciences.
“Some of the students that I approached dismissed me, terming my idea stupid,” she said.
“However, two of my colleagues were excited about the project and offered to help me actualise it,” added Wandia.
The 24-year-old student said her trick, was to come up with a way of converting cellulose available in grass into starch. Enzymatic transformation studies had to be done to know how to make the conversion possible.
Innocent Bahati, a Fourth Year Bachelor of Clinical Medicine student at the Kabarak University, offered to help Wandia hack the project in September 2022.
“We examined different enzymes. I had the knowledge that most of the carbohydrates which we consume, such as maize and rice, have a similar form to the carbohydrates found in grass,” said Bahati.
Finally, the partners found a way of relying on enzymatic transformation technology to convert the cellulose in grass into carbohydrates that can be ground.
He said the enzymes have to be imported from foreign countries.
Bahati hopes they’d soon be in a position to locally produce the externally-sourced enzymes to lower the cost of production.
Wandia’s other partner, Salome Njeri, who is a Third Year Bachelor of Economics student at the Kabarak University, said she was impressed by the innovation.
Njeri’s work in the group is to ensure that the cost of production remains low.
“I source the enzymes, the grass and other material. Currently, we are using Bermuda and Rye types of grass to make the flour,” said Njeri.
The trio were supervised by Wilson Balongo, an innovator and business occupation expert.