KENYA – Unilever, in partnership with the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) and the University of Nairobi, has announced the winner of “The Great Millet Quest.”

The Great Millet Quest aims to unlock millet’s untapped potential and promote its role as a primary grain in Kenya’s agricultural landscape.

Launched in January 2024, this innovative competition challenged university students to harness their creativity and develop sustainable, innovative products centered around millet, a highly nutritious and drought-resistant grain.

The competition was inspired by the United Nations’ declaration of 2023 as the Year of Millet, highlighting the multiple benefits of millet, from nutrition and health to environmental sustainability and economic development.

This initiative aligns with Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to achieve food security, improve nutrition, end hunger, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

University of Nairobi’s Team Nexus emerged victorious with their product, Milcracks.

Developing our millet crackers fortified with probiotics has been an incredible journey. We’re not just excited about this win; we’re passionate about the opportunity it presents to innovate and make a real difference in Kenya’s food landscape,” said Team Nexus after their win.

These healthy, probiotic-infused crackers, made from millet and essential seeds, can be enjoyed as a standalone snack or for breakfast.

Milcracks aimed to combat micronutrient deficiencies and secured the top prize of KES 500,000. The first runners-up, Team Kalmi, earned KES 250,000 for their precooked, ready-to-eat puffed millet product.

Team SoyMill, the second runner-up, received KES 100,000 for their innovative Soy Mill Noodles.

Millet is a nutritional powerhouse, resilient to adverse climatic conditions, making it ideal for smallholder farmers.

These student innovations demonstrate millet’s potential for creating a healthier, more sustainable future.

We are committed to supporting these ideas, driving sustainable growth, and making a lasting impact on our communities and environment,” said Unilever CEO, Luck Ochieng.

The competition addresses challenges posed by climate change and contributes to national food security by encouraging the use of climate-resilient crops.

“Millet, with its rich nutritional profile, holds the potential to address both food security and nutritional needs in Kenya’s rapidly expanding population. Its adaptability and versatility position it as a valuable crop for sustainable agriculture,” said George Njoroge, FtMA Kenya Country Coordinator.

In a speech read by Mr. Calistas Kundu, Director Food Crops, on behalf of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Hon. Mithika Linturi, said that the Government introduced the Flour Blending Initiative in 2021, addressing Kenya’s growing concern over high energy-based diets that often lead to ‘hidden hunger.’

The goal is to make underutilized crops more competitive in the value chain, improve nutrition, and create employment opportunities by utilizing target crops such as sorghum, cassava, millet, and sweet potatoes, which can be locally blended with maize or wheat.

Millet’s resilience to adverse climatic conditions, including drought, heat, and pests, makes it an ideal agricultural value chain for smallholder farmers. It requires minimal inputs, such as water and fertilizer, and can thrive in diverse environments, including low and high altitudes.

Changing the food ecosystem requires creating demand for sustainable ingredients like millet. This will require exciting marketing, collaboration, and tenacity.”

Unilever’s Great Millet Quest project embodies this effort.

Partnering with FtMA, we have trained over 800 farmers in regenerative agriculture, aligning with Unilever’s Net Zero pathway. Youth involvement in innovation is crucial for a sustainable future, and this initiative empowers them to protect and shape it,” said Dexter Adeola, Africa Platform Lead, Nutrition.

For all the latest grains industry news from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our weekly NEWSLETTERS, follow us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.