Household storage practices of traditional cereals and Legumes and their effects on food security: a case study of Maragua and Gikingo locations, Tharaka District, Kenya.
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A cross-sectional survey that had a laboratory analysis component was carried out. The aim of the investigation was to establish household storage practices of traditional cereals and legumes and their effects on food security in Maragua and Gikingo locations, Tharaka District, Kenya. The sample size for the cross-sectional survey was 246 households. Purposive, simple random and proportionate sampling methods were employed in sample selection. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire. Proximate analysis and determination of aflatoxin content were done on samples of cereals and legumes that were randomly collected from different storage methods. Proximate analysis was also done on the various foods prepared using cereals and legumes (traditional foods). A total of 36 samples of the cereal and legume grains and 10 samples of the traditional foods were analysed. In both Maragua and Gikingo locations, slightly more than a half of the households (53.9%) do not have enough food to meet the energy requirement while 65.8% do not actually meet the energy requirement of 2250 Kcal per consumer unit. Majority of these households that i do not have enough to meet the energy requirement have: a large household size (>7 members) (64.1% in Maragua location and 66.0% in Gikingo location), earn a low monthly income (69.4% in Maragua location and 57.0% in Gikingo location), cultivate land of less than 5 acres (67.2% in Maragua location and 63.5% in Gikingo location) and do not own livestock (100% in Maragua location and 70% in Gikingo location). A large proportion of the households which did not have enough to meet their energy requirement: stored their grain for less than 3 months (75.0%), reported that they had a XIll problem with storage of their main crop, namely millet (56.5%), used the sack as their storage method of choice (56.1 %), did not use preservatives for storage (57.4%) and their decisions regarding how much to store or to sell were made by wives (76%). Time in storage affected the nutritive value of the grains. The moisture content of the grains was below the maximum moisture content for safe storage of cereals and legumes «13%). The fat, carbohydrate and energy contents decreased in all the grains with duration of storage while the protein, fibre and ash contents showed an increase in most instances. There was an increase in the aflatoxin content in millet (from 0 to O.351lg/kg), green grams (from 0 to O.351lg/kg) and sorghum (from 0 to 0.481lg/kg) grains with duration of storage. These increases were below the acceptable levels of aflatoxin contamination in Kenya (20Ilg/kg). An intake of more than 1kg of traditional foods would be required to meet the minimum energy requirement of2250 Kcal/cu. In conclusion, this study illustrates that there is a possibility of improving household food security through interventions on household characteristics, household storage practices and traditional foods. Measures that can be adopted by intervening parties are such as: education on family planning to ensure smaller household sizes, encouraging households to put more land at their disposal under cultivation, supplying and encouraging the use of preservatives for storage, re-popularising traditional storage methods such as mururu and granary, encouraging the production and consumption of legumes and increasing the energy content of the diet.