African Crop Science Journal

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Potential for quality protein maize for reducing proteinenergy undernutrition in maize dependent Sub-Saharan African countries: A review

C.S. Nyakurwa, E. Gasura, S. Mabasa


Most cereal crops, including maize (Zea mays L.), are deficient in essential amino acids, such as lysine and tryptophan; hence they are poor in protein quality. A mutant maize with elevated levels of lysine and tryptophan was developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and was called  quality protein maize (QPM). Nonetheless, people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continue to use normal endosperm maize (non-QPM) instead of QPM. The objective of this article was to examine the existing information on institutional arrangements, infrastructure and social systems hampering adoption of QPM and to identify opportunities for promoting the campaign for its utilisation in SSA, through  innovative research for development initiatives. It is clear that QPM has superior nutritional value, both to humans and to monogastric animals compared to  non-QPM. Lack of sound policies and awareness among farmers about the existence and advantages of QPM are some of major drawbacks to QPM adoption and realisation of its benefits. Most farmers hardly believe information regarding  nutritional composition of varieties, without convincing visual evidence such as  grain yield from demonstration plots. Many African governments have mounted  campaigns geared to promote adoption of QPM varieties. Varying levels of QPM adoption have been recorded in South Africa, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Ghana with high QPM production under areas ranging from 12 500 to 71 250 ha. In order to reduce protein-energy undernutrition (PEU), SSA countries should implement  policies that promote QPM adoption such as providing farmers with a premium price for the QPM grain. Results from meta-analysis community based studies revealed that QPM based diets resulted in a 12% improvement on weight and 9% increase in height in infant and young children compared to non-QPM based diets. Therefore, quality protein maize bears great potential for reducing PEU and its adoption could be high given that most SSA countries depend on maize as the major source of  calories and protein.

Key Words: Bio-fortification, lysine, malnutrition, tryptophan, Zea mays L.
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