Grain amaranth

Lead Organization:

Makerere University

Partner Organizations:

Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa


Uganda and Kenya




Amaranth is an African crop considered to have great potential to contribute to the alleviation of malnutrition and food insecurity. While the plant is technically an herb, its seeds can be eaten as a grain and its leaves can be consumed as a vegetable. The grain is rich in lysine, an amino acid that is limited in cereal-based diets; the protein value is 30% greater than that of the cereals. The crop grows rapidly and can provide good yields under marginal conditions.Approximately 19% of Ugandans are malnourished. Deficiencies of vitamin A and iron are widespread: the former affects approximately 20% of women and children, while the latter affects 73% of under-five children and 41% of women of child-bearing age. The cropping system where the proposed project would operate is dominated by maize and sorghum, with banana and common bean as important components. There is a need to diversify the cropping system to provide greater resiliency against climate variability and other challenges, and to provide greater dietary diversity for Ugandan families.While Amaranth is relatively widely grown as a vegetable (the leaves are consumed like spinach), few farmers grow it for its highly nutritious seeds. This project aims to increase the production of grain amaranth, its utilization at the household and commercial levels, and its positive impact on human nutritional status.

Grant Aims:

A baseline survey will provide detailed information on the current status of the crop, as well as the nutritional status of the people in the target areas, followed by an impact assessment after two years of promotion.Areas with high potential for grain amaranth production will be identified, and optimum agronomic practices will be determined.The effect of environmental conditions on the nutritional value of grain amaranth will be determined.Recipes and products will be assessed, and new ones will be developed. At the household level, the aim will be to incorporate more amaranth into local diets. At the commercial level, opportunities for utilization of the crop will be identified with the aim of increasing household income of smallholder amaranth producers.Grain amaranth production and consumption will be promoted with the support of existing agricultural extension, health and nutrition organizations (governmental and non-governmental). VEDCO’s farmer-to-farmer networks will be among those utilized.A baseline study was conducted in three districts of Uganda to determine the following; food habits of the communities; nutrient intake and food security of the communities; production of grain amaranth, including the area under grain amaranth, crop yield and species grown; gender roles in grain amaranth production and utilization; grain amaranth uses and; contribution of grain amaranth to household nutrient intake and income.

Outputs and Outcomes:

Determined current production and utilization of grain amaranth in three agroecological zones.Determined functional (pasting) properties of grain amaranth.Identified 51 different grain amaranth based recipes. Grain amaranth was mainly used for sauce, stiff porridge (meal) and gruel (porridge).Agronomic trials determined the effect of plant density and soil fertility management on grain amaranth production across ecological zones in Uganda.Baseline survey revealed high level of farmer participation in farmer organizations and collaboration with extension workers and NGOs on community development activities; good avenues for the delivery of agricultural interventions and implementation.Baseline survey showed that seed was a major constraint to production of grain amaranth. To overcome this, seed will be distributed to farmers.In baseline survey, farmers expressed that a major constraint for limited grain amaranth production of grain amaranth was limited market demand. Consumption was not a constraint; thus, in order to ensure adoption there is a need to create market opportunities even for crops meant for promoting household food security.