Bringing Traditional Grains Back to the Dinner Table

Bringing Back Traditional Grains to the Dinner Table is a project aimed at showcasing traditional grains as modern foods able to meet the needs of a modern family in terms of convenience and a healthy diet. The key vehicle for “bringing back the traditional grains to thee dinner table” is through a series of cookery competitions that bring top chefs to make a variety of dishes from the traditional grains, product developers to showcase millet and sorghum products and for food and science students to demonstrate product concepts.

The project is a collaboration between the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the Pardee Rand Graduate School. The seed fund for the project was provided by Makerere University School of Public Health and the Resilient Africa Network (RAN) based at Makerere University and is a project of USAID under its Global Innovation Labs initiative. It builds on a sorghum and millet value chain study that was commissioned by ACET under a grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The country study was conducted by Africa Innovation Institute (AfII) based in Kampala Uganda.

The project has thus far had three successful cookery competitions with the first one having run in December 2015, another in April 2016 and recently in October 2016. The competitions have been graced by some of the top chefs from around the country, high school and university students, impressive food product developers and street food vendors. A recipe book with some of the winning dishes has been published for consumer consumption. This is done in a bid to further attract consumers.

In a recent Stakeholder Breakfast Meeting held on 1st November, 2016 at Golf Course Hotel, Kampala, the project rehashed its successes and looked at a way forward. It was noted that the cookery competitions were indeed a success and had garnered a reasonable amount of attention towards the traditional grains. However, this attention was only in a select group of people, mostly the elite, and it was suggested that measures to ensure that attention extended to the ordinary working class people especially at household level needed to be harnessed.

The project was further applauded, by the participants, on its capabilities to address the climate challenge and it was suggested that this could be used as an advocacy message in the future, that is, traditional grains are beneficial health-wise and in addressing the increasingly demanding climate challenge.

Chef Susan Kato, the winning chef from the cookery competitions, during the meeting said that she was very glad for the opportunity to participate in the cookery competition because it afforded her with healthy, tasty, satisfying foods suitable for her diabetic condition and due to her love for experimenting with foods; it was a fruitful experience and she would continue to spread the word on millet and sorghum.

Some of the sorghum and millet dishes