Imagine eating ugali, one of the most common foods in Kenya then realizing it is been prepared from grass?
This is no longer an imagination because a group of students from Kabarak University, Nakuru County have found a new way to convert grass to edible ugali flour.
Faith Wandia, a 25-year-old student pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration and Finance is the brain behind this innovation that seeks to end world hunger.
She explains how a large number of people die of hunger in the world with those hugely affected being young children.
“About 9 million people die yearly due to hunger, 3.1 million of them being children which means 24,000 people are dying daily and 1,000 people per hour,” says Wandia.
Faith says that the project was coined back in 2020 but the real breakthrough came in the year 2022 since the invention process involved a lot of trial and error.
She says the initial innovation process was characterized by a lot of failures whereby they would not get the intended results in the lab.
“At first we were trying to see what would work so you end up using a lot of funds, you test you end up having glucose instead of starch then you have to repeat to get the correct result,” highlighted Wandia.
The young inventor says the reason behind her along with her team using grass is because grass grows in 50 – 60 % of the total earth’s surface area with the preferred grass being Bermuda grass.
However, grass is not readily edible to human beings since humans do not have the enzyme cellulase in their gut to break down cellulose in the grass which is a main component in it.
This forces Wandia and her team to convert the cellulose in the grass from one form to another to ensure it is safe for human consumption.
She says this process is resource intensive since the enzymes needed to make the grass edible are not readily available in the country, forcing her to outsource them from abroad.
Wandia and her team say they have been conducting tests for about a year now to make sure the flour is fit for human consumption.
The innovators say the flour made from grass will fetch a cheaper price than compared to the maize flour going for around Ksh 39 to Ksh 40 per kilo.
Their main focus now is getting consent from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics(KEBS) to enable them to commercialize the product in the Kenyan market.