Mexico’s Maize Nixtamalization Project in Kenya

Mar 17, 2019 | Solution

Challenge Maize is a basic food product in Kenya. Its per capita consumption is high (103 kg/year) and it constitutes 31 per cent of Kenyans’ caloric intake. In Kenya, maize is used in only 10 food products, as opposed to Mexico, where it is used in more than 600. Its few uses in Kenya restrict both per capita consumption and demand for farmers’ production, while limited processing restricts the maize value chain and inhibits opportunities for industrialization in Kenya. Moreover, the devastating consequences of aflatoxin contamination are well- known in the agricultural sector and are also visible in the health and nutrition status of the affected population. Towards a Solution Mexico, as the cradle of corn, has vast experience in the use of maize and has developed diverse food products that use corn, principally derived from a process known as nixtamalization that involves cooking the grain in a lime solution and soaking it for a few hours to ensure the removal of any remaining organic components and excess alkali. This was seen as a solution to address Kenya’s challenge. The process offers numerous nutritional benefits, such as:
  • reducing the risk of pellagra by increasing niacin (Vitamin B3):
  • increasing calcium ingestion because the maize grains absorb it from the lime during the boiling process;
  • increasing fibre intake due to high content of resistant starch in food products; and,
  • reducing mycotoxins in maize.
The nixtamalization process offers important nutritional and health benefits, especially in places such as Kenya, where maize is a staple food and where there is high risk of aflatoxin contamination. After a steering committee was created in 2014, a Mexican delegation visited Kenya in 2016 to provide training on maize storage and the nixtamalization process. The Mexican Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AMEXCID) provided two mills. One was installed at the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) laboratory, where Kenyan scientists carry out nixtamalization, lime quality testing and milling exercises to produce corn flour to prepare ugali (a traditional cornmeal porridge). AMEXCID is in the process of delivering a second mill, with support to be provided by visiting Mexican experts, who will conduct workshops and provide additional training in nixtamalization. The workshops have promoted the training of authorities from the Agriculture and Irrigation Department, KALRO, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, representatives from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, and representatives from other government agencies and academic and research institutions. The project’s success and the effectiveness of its results attracted interest from institutions and universities in other countries. As a result, introductory nixtamalization workshops have been held in Ghana and South Africa. Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 2.1, 2.2 Contact: Dr. Martha Navarro Albo, General Director of Technical and Scientific Cooperation, Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Countries/ territories involved: Kenya, Mexico Supported by: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre; Managerial Council of the Mexican Industry of the Maize and its Derivatives A.C., Agriculture Ministry of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). Implementing entities: AMEXCID, FAO Project status: Ongoing Project period: 2013-2018 URL of the practice: