By Paul Ndiho
Peanut, also commonly known as groundnut in East Africa is one of Uganda’s staple crops. It’s rich in protein, oil and other essential minerals. The food item has increasingly become a cash crop as it transforms agriculture in Uganda, benefiting hundreds of mostly female farmers.
Peanut or groundnut is cultivated in the semi-arid and tropical regions of nearly 100 countries. It’s an important legume that is consumed worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, peanuts are the principle source of digestible protein, cooking oil, and vitamins. The crop is also a significant source of income for many families across the region. David Kalule Okello, a senior researcher at the national agricultural research organization (NARO), heads groundnuts improvement program in Uganda.
“Groundnuts is actually one of the most important legumes in Uganda, if you look at it from the point of the capital household consumption, it is the most important because it the type of food, the way people grow it here it is embedded in their culture, so it is a very important crop, it’s very rich in energy and protein and it also enriches the soil, such as the substance crop which follows it benefits from the nitrogen.”
Over the years, peanut crops have suffered from numerous pests, diseases and erratic climate changing patterns. However, Okello and other researchers have been working hard to improve the varieties and so far, they’ve released about 10 varieties that are pest and disease resistant.
Researchers say peanuts are an important, high-protein food crop in the country, as well as a valuable cash crop, because the nuts can be processed into a variety of products from peanut butter and pastes to oil. Farmers are getting better yields from their harvest and the instead of the crop heading to dinner table, it’s destined to the markets for sale.