Enhancing yellow maize production for sustainable food and nutrition security in Kenya

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Joyce Aguk
Richard Ndemo Onwonga
George Ndiema Chemining’wa
MacDonald Bright Jumbo
Abong George


Yellow maize; white maize; Vitamin A; intercropping; legume


Maize is a strategic staple crop serving both as human food and feed in the livestock sector. It therefore has a critical socioeconomic value safeguarding against food and nutrition insecurity. Maize yields are however low especially among smallholder farmers who rely on this crop for their livelihood and sustenance. This has rendered most Sub-Saharan Africa countries such as Kenya to be net importers and depended on food aid mainly in form of maize. Even though white maize variety is nutritionally inferior, it is the most produced and consumed with little regard placed on yellow maize. We reviewed 154 articles and reports to highlight challenges facing maize production and sustainable agricultural practices that should be embraced to overcome them, nutritional benefits of yellow maize, factors hindering its consumption and research gaps that need to be addressed to enhance its production and utilization. Key production challenges identified include shrinking land sizes, declining soil fertility, adverse and unpredictable weather patterns and the devastating striga weed. Intercropping especially cereals with legumes have great potential for efficient land, water and nutrient resource utilization, manage weeds and minimize crop failure and adverse weather effects. This combined with integrated soil fertility management will ensure increased yields. It was found that yellow maize has higher carotenoid content hence superior to white maize and when taken with grain legumes provides a low-cost balanced diet. Despite this, yellow maize utilization is low because it is regarded as poor man’s crop, associated with food aid and reserved as livestock feed. This negative perception can be changed through educational campaigns on its nutritional value in order to enhance local production and encourage social acceptability to aid alleviate vitamin A deficiency, a key limiting micronutrient. In conclusion, tapping in the nutritional superiority of yellow maize through legume intercropping should be enhanced.

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