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Policy brief: Unlocking the nutritive value of whole grains to beat hidden hunger in East Africa

Photo: Johannes Plenio / Unsplash

During a challenging yet exciting year and a half, our Expert Group  has worked to share knowledge on hidden hunger and how actors along the value chains of traditional grains in eastern Africa can contribute to addressing it.

Throughout the year our group has seen the existing interest and willingness amongst farmers, food companies and consumers to fight hidden hunger. It is now time for policymakers and decision-makers to ease the path for small and medium-sized food companies to provide more nutritious food products. If a supportive policy environment is in place, the private sector can thrive and contribute to food consumers’ improved health.

To support policymakers in this process we have developed a policy brief that describes hydrothermal technology, a traditional technique for processing whole grains that enhance the nutritional value of the food produced, at the same time improving food companies’ market opportunities. The policy brief also suggests policy implications that may emerge if food companies in eastern Africa were enabled to adopt more nutritious food practices, such as the hydrothermal technology.

Means for policy to support food companies’ production of nutrition food

Policymakers wanting to create more supportive environments for the private sector in producing more healthy food could adopt a three-pronged approach:

  1. Whole grains could be used as raw materials, instead of heavily refined grains with minimal nutrients. Preferably locally available traditional varieties of whole grains that are nutrient-dense and resilient to climate change.
  1. Adopt hydrothermal processing of whole grains. Food companies can potentially create highly nutritious products by using this relatively simple technique as part of their current processing activities or as a stand-alone.
  1. Inform consumers about the health benefits of eating food with a nutritional value beyond the minimal requirements.

Policy implications from integrating hydrothermal processing practices in food production

If food companies in Eastern Africa were enabled to integrate hydrothermal processing practices further actions would be needed to continue supporting the production and consumption of more healthy food. These are some likely policy implications:

  • The need for continued efforts by the East Africa countries to harmonize standards for nutritious food involving production and processing along food value chains in the region.
  • Promote targeted advocacy programs to promote nutritious food among rural and low-income consumers who are more vulnerable to the challenges related to hidden hunger (both health and economic related).
  • The need for breeding programs in the region to preserve the high nutritional attributes of local/traditional varieties of grains.
  • The need for more research on food processing methods that preserve micronutrients and increase their bioavailability in human diets.

Even though there is no silver bullet to solve malnutrition and hidden hunger in Eastern Africa, the hydrothermal processing technique presents a myriad of opportunities for the private sector to produce nutritious food for the health and wellbeing of consumers. Adopting and integrating this method when processing food in communities with hidden hunger require collaborative efforts involving policy actors to set standards for nutritious food, academia as generators of knowledge, and the private sector to use the knowledge and create innovative solutions to combat hidden hunger.

We look forward to hearing what you think about this policy brief! Even if the project is coming to an end, we keep working to endure inclusive businesses willing to build sustainable diets for the planet and us. Do not hesitate to connect with us at

Read the policy brief