Adequate nutrition is a key factor in living an active and healthy life. In spite of its importance as a determinant of health and development, malnutrition is still a neglected area and too little has been done to address its causes and serious social and economic implications. However, recently there has been growing interest in nutrition with stronger political involvement at the national and international level leading to significant financial pledges and policy commitments.
“In Tanzania, stunting affects 34.7% of children fewer than five years of age national wise. Ranking 3rd last on stunting in sub-Saharan Africa about one third of children age 6-59 months are iron deficient 69 percent are anemic 24% and are vitamin A deficient,” stated Mercy Mmari in a recent interview.
She is doing masters of food science and nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya. Her program is administered by RUFORUM through iAGRI funding. Her research is focusing on product development using germinated soybeans, sweet potatoes and Senene – edible longhorn grasshopper Ruspolia differens. with the Title “Nutrients composition and consumer acceptability of soybean-sweet potato based complementary food enriched with senene – longhorn grasshopper Ruspolia differens and it was conducted in Kagera and Morogoro region.
Mercy explain that “Longhorn grasshopper commonly known as senene in Tanzania, is an energy dense ingredient useful in enriching plant-based complementary foods with energy and nutrients potential in fighting malnutrition leading to food security. “ 100g of Senene can provide Recommended Daily Allowed, (RDA) for protein, zinc, vitamin A and iron to children below 5 of age” she added.
Mercy believes her innovation has the potential for saving 40 Million of the Tanzania’s population living in perishing malnutrition annually in Tanzania. She recommends the use of edible insects in formulation of babies’ foods as affordable means of avoiding stunting for the resource poor farmers. Apart from studying at JKUAT as one of the regional Universities, the scholarship provided an opportunity for her to expand her knowledge of science and technology, and analyzing problem and phenomena from a longer term and worldwide perspective. Most importantly the scholarship has granted a great opportunity for her to build a connection and networks across African Universities and academicians from different disciplines and agriculture stakeholders.
Mercy stated “I have attended RUFORUM’s 5th biennial conference and Higher Education week in Cape Town South Africa where I presented a paper with the title “Application of edible insect in enriching complementary foods made from common plant sources” Mercy said her presentation awakened the feelings of the audience who wanted to learn more about edible insects and the developed product. “Im very grateful the University of Pretoria promised to apply this innovative knowledge and bring their insects’ product to a coming biennial conference,” She was very thankful for an iAGRI scholarship as such opportunities are seldom to get. Mercy says, “no duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks to all people who made her academic safari possible as she mentioned supervisors, Dr. J.N Kinyuru and Dr. J.Okoth, Prof. from Department of Food Science and Technology JKUAT and Henry Laswai from the Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Food Science and Technology, SUA,” The entire team played vital role in mentoring as well as ensuring access to facilities and research materials.
Going forward, Mercy will be an importance assert in the field of food science and technology industry. Now in the final stages of her master’s research, with enhanced skills and knowledge from her iAGRI Trainings and workshops, Mercy is well-prepared to fulfill her dream of improving nutritional health all over Tanzania. In the future, she is planning to pursue a PhD in food science and technology so as to widen knowledge.