[Additional reporting: Addis Getachew (Ethiopia), Fabien Niyonizigiye (Burundi), Yosra Mostafa Awad Abdelhady (Egypt) and Businge Sadick (Rwanda) contributed to this report.]
Sharon Amumpaire sits in the shade of her house as she eats breakfast with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Like most mornings, they eat maize porridge and leftover matooke (a dish made of steamed plantain bananas) from the night before. Her older children have also had porridge for breakfast before going to a nearby nursery school in Ntungamo district in Western Uganda.
You can use it [maize flour] to make many different kinds of foods.”
Amumpaire starts eating maize corn while it is still fresh from the garden; her children prefer it roasted. But she sometimes steams it and serves it for lunch or supper.
When maize has properly matured, Amumpaire harvests it and stores it in baskets in her house. It is there that she takes some to cook or mill, to use as porridge or maize bread.
Another mother, Kyomugisha Agnes, also loves maize for its varied purposes. She uses it to make posho bread for lunch or supper. “That’s the beauty of maize flour, you can use it to make many different kinds of foods,” she says.
In Burundi, people cook fresh maize and serve it as a dish to their families. Sometimes they also mill maize for flour, which they use to make porridge or maize bread, locally known as ubugali. Burundians love maize for its nutritious qualities.
Maize is a good source of dietary fibre and protein.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, one of the reasons maize is a staple food across the world is due to its high nutritional value, with high levels of starch and also valuable proteins and oils.
Depending on the variety, maize may contain a number of important B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin C, and provitamin A (i.e. precursor to vitamin A). Maize is also rich in phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron and selenium, and has small amounts of potassium and calcium. Maize is a good source of dietary fibre and protein while being very low in fat and sodium (salt).
One delicacy in Burundi is a mixture of maize and beans to form what is known as intete. The maize flour is also used to make both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
Maize is among the main sources of meals consumed in Burundi. It is cultivated in all ecological regions, even though maize is a basic staple for some and a mere supplement for others.
In some regions, maize is known for its bread, beer, porridge and food for domesticated animals.
A mason in Rutana province says that the maize is used differently, but it remains an important food for them. It is eaten as bread but also used in the manufacturing of a local beer called umugorigori.
A student from Makamba says that maize is eaten grilled and as also as bread. He added that it is transformed into a white flour eaten by people in some towns.
The byproducts during the transformation are sold to stockholders to feed cows and chickens. According to Willy Ndayikeza, a native of the Mugamba region, maize bread is nutritious and also delicious, he says. In addition, he sometimes drinks a concoction of maize and wheat flour in the morning.
Dina Khalil, who originally comes from Beheira in the Nile Delta, says that maize is a very important crop in his country. It yields the biggest harvest after rice and is used in many nutritious meals.
Slowly grilled in the mud ovens in the countryside, Egyptians use it for bread-making by mixing it with wheat flour. There’s also a cake made with corn flour called besisa. “In the city, we use it for popcorn, or in salads and pizzas as sweet corn.”
Josianne Mukarukundo from Huye says she mixes maize, sorghum and millet flour for her children’s meals – either for porridge or bread. Mukarukundo likes maize because it is sun resistant.
“Even when the rain is delayed, maize will survive until we get good rains,” she says. She usually interplants maize with beans in her garden.
Maize became increasingly important in the food security of Ethiopia following the major drought and famine of 1984. More than 9 million smallholder households plant maize.
More than 9 million smallholder households in Ethiopia plant maize.
Ethiopia has doubled its maize productivity and production in less than two decades. The yield, currently estimated at three metric tons/hectare, is the second-highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa.
The maize area covered by improved varieties in Ethiopia grew from 14 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2013, and the application rate of mineral fertilisers from 16 to 34 kilogram/hectare during the same period. Ethiopia’s extension worker to farmer ratio is 1:476, compared to 1:1,000 in Kenya, 1:1,603 in Malawi and 1:2,500 in Tanzania.
Research shows that increased use of improved maize varieties and mineral fertilisers, coupled with increased extension services, as well as the absence of devastating droughts, are the key factors promoting the accelerated growth in maize productivity in Ethiopia, which took a homegrown solutions approach to the research and development of its maize and other commodities.
Maize flour is used as a main ingredient in the preparation of foods such as homemade bread and genfo (Ethiopian porridge).