emory Maninga reports for Zambia Daily Mail that in Mansa, the capital of the Luapula Province of Zambia, spirulina is being grown in ponds in the communities because of its high medicinal and nutritional value.
Zambia has in the recent past been importing spirulina from the United States. However, imported products could not meet the demand, prompting the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) to engage in local production of spirulina.
Working with ZARI in Luapula province is a non-governmental organization called Programme against Malnutrition (PAM) that is promoting the production and consumption of spirulina in Luapula. Precious Watanuka is PAM’s project coordinator and she explained the nutritional value of spirulina in an interview.
“Spirulina is highly nutritious and helps to promote good health. Because of its nutrition value, we recently engaged in a project to distribute the product to children who have severe malnutrition in Luapula Province. To sustain this project, we have been importing the product from USA but we have seen that this is unsustainable. So, we are now producing and promoting local production of spirulina,” she said.
The production of spirulina in ponds in Luapula Province has been going on for almost a year, and so far the organism is showing good signs of adjusting to Zambia’s climatic pattern. Soon the campaigners will be moving to other regions to encourage its production in community ponds.
However, the harvesting of locally-produced spirulina has not yet begun in Luapula and other parts of the country. The product awaits completion of trials by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) for it to be standardized.
“We are already producing spirulina in Luapula Province but we have not yet started distributing the locally-grown one as the product is still under-going trials. Soon, we will start promoting production in other areas as well to enhance access,” said Ms. Watanuka.
“Spirulina enhances concentration for school children and elderly people who are busy with work. It makes the brain operate effectively and most people that have been eating it have a high intelligence quotient,” she said.
Spirulina is usually taken as a food supplement. One can add it to such foods as rice, potatoes, porridge, gravy and beverages. It can also be blended with flour to make fritters, scones and biscuits. Just a single teaspoon of spirulina to any meal or beverage is enough to make a balanced diet,” she says.
Rosemary Kangwa, of Kalaba village in Mansa district recalls that her son was once severely malnourished but resuscitated after feeding him with spirulina for three consecutive months. “My son was severely malnourished when he was about two years. I was almost losing hope but after hearing about spirulina, I was enrolled on the spirulina feeding program. I started feeding my son spirulina porridge three times a day and within three months, he was back to normal health,” Ms. Kangwa says.
Since PAM started the distribution of spirulina in Luapula Province in November last year, over 450 children have benefitted. An extra 750 malnourished children are expected to benefit during the second phase of the project, starting in November this year.
Demand for spirulina continues to increase in that part of Zambia but not much is known about the food supplement in other parts of the country.
The task for the nutritionists and their associates is to raise awareness on health and nutritional benefits of spirulina to encourage production and consumption of the food supplement.