Feeding the world is about more than just satisfying stomachs. Food scientists and nutritionists have long recognized that the foods we eat not only need to fill us up, but nourish our bodies as well.
The problem of ‘hidden hunger’ — deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals — continues to pose serious threats to populations and economies around the world. A lack of micronutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A in diets can lead to blindness, disease or even death, particularly for women and for children under the age of five.
When designing and implementing agricultural development projects, it is difficult to ensure that they are responsive to gender dynamics. For Mulunesh Tsegaye, a gender specialist attached to two projects working on the areas of nutrition and mechanization in Ethiopia, participatory approaches are the best way forward.
“I have lived and worked with communities. If you want to help a community, they know best how to do things for themselves. There are also issues of sustainability when you are not there forever. You need to make communities own what has been done in an effective participatory approach,” she said.
The CIMMYT Global Maize program, with funding from the MAIZE CRP, recently produced a series of videos on nixtamalization, the process of cooking and steeping dried maize grain with water and lime (calcium hydroxide) in order to unlock important nutritional benefits. The video is meant to serve as an instructional tool to inform the public about the positive nutritional and physical characteristics the nixtamalization process can bring to maize.
Nixtamalization is a traditional maize preparation method that has been practiced in Central America for centuries. The process induces changes in the kernel’s structure, chemical composition, physical properties and nutritional value; increasing the calcium content as well as the bioavailability of protein and niacin. This helps to prevent malnutrition and related diseases such as pellagra and kwashiorkor in populations that consume a maize-based diet, as maize, while very nutritious, is deficient in certain important amino acids in its raw form. The nixtamalization process also allows for the creation of masa, or maize dough, which can be formed into many traditional food items that form the basis of Central American diets, such as tortillas.
The videos explain both the traditional domestic and modern industrial process of nixtamalization, and include interviews with local “nixtamalization experts,” millers and tortilla makers who have been practicing the art of nixtamalization for decades.
To view the video on the nixtamalization process, please click here.
To view the “nixtamalization expert” video, please click here.