Potential of #Local Food to Improve Food and Nutrition security Okra in #Ethiopia


Okra, also known as Ladies Fingers, Gombo, Bendi or Gumbo, appears to have originated from West Africa, probably somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the 12th century B.C.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus, rose of Sharon, and hollyhock. Okra or ladies finger is an important vegetable of the tropical countries and most popular in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc. Though virtually not grown in Europe and North America, lots of people in these countries have started liking this vegetable due to the presence of good amount of vitamins.

The plant can be grown throughout the year and resembles cotton in its habit. It is an annual vegetable crop grown in the tropics of the world. It can be grown on all kinds of soils. However, to get the best results, it requires a friable well-manure soil. Okra used in countries like India in huge amount, okra accounts for 60 per cent of the export of fresh vegetables. India exports okra mainly to West Asia, Western Europe and the US. The demand for fresh okra is more in the overseas markets.

Okra pods are available year round. Okra is a very healthy green vegetable that contains many important minerals, vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants which are essential to good health. Read on, to learn various okra health benefits.

Nutritional value of okra, scientific evidence

Okra is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin B6 and C, fiber, calcium, and folic acid.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin’s. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra. Like soybean oil, okra seed oil is rich (60 to 70%) in unsaturated fatty acids. Okra mucilage refers to the thick and slimy substance found in fresh as well as dried pods. Mucilaginous substances are usually concentrated in the pod walls.


Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Fresh, raw pods:

Nutrition value per 100 g.  (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 1.5% 31 Kcal
Carbohydrates 7.03 g 5.4%
Protein 2.0 g 4%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 9% 3.2 g
Folates 88 mcg 22%
Niacin 1.000 mg 6%
Pantothenic acid 0.245 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.215 mg 16.5%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Thiamin 0.200 mg 17%
Vitamin C 21.1 mg 36%
Vitamin A 375 IU 12.5%
Vitamin E 0.36 mg 2.5%
Vitamin K 53 mcg 44%
Sodium 8 mg 0.5%
Potassium 303 mg 6%
Calcium 81 mg 8%
Copper 0.094 mg 10%
Iron 0.80 mg 10%
Magnesium 57 mg 14%
Manganese 0.990 mg 43%
Phosphorus 63 mg 9%
Selenium 0.7 mcg 1%
Zinc 0.60 mg 5.5%
Carotene-ß 225 mcg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mcg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 516 mcg


Health and Medicinal Value: Scientific Evidence


  • The fiber content of okra has many high qualities; it helps in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Okra helps to reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and excess bile in its mucilage and slips it out through stool. Because of the greater percentage of water in the bulk, it prevents constipation, gas and bloating stomach problems.
  • This is a very good vegetable for weight loss, as it is a storehouse of health benefits, provided it is cooked on low flame, so that the okra health benefits are retained. This way the invaluable mucilage obtained from okra, is not lost due to high heat.
  • To add volume and bounce to your hair, you can use this hair care tip. Boil horizontally sliced okra, till the brew becomes slimy. Then let it cool, add few drops of lemon to it and use it as a last rinse. This will bring bounce and volume to your hair.
  • The mucilage and fiber present in okra, helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and regulating their absorption in small intestine.
  • Okra facilitates in propagation of good bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the ones proliferated by yogurt in the small intestine, and helps in biosynthesis of vitamin B complex.
  • Protein and oil found in the seeds of okra serves as a good source of high quality vegetable protein. It is rich in amino acids like tryptophan, cysteine and other sulfur amino acids.
  • Okra is a very good laxative, as it helps in treating irritable bowels, healing ulcers and soothing the gastrointestinal track.
  • Okra is good for summer heat and sun stroke treatment.
  • Okra is good for atherosclerosis, and is good for asthma.
  • It can help in prevention of diabetes.
  • Okra Is High In Foliate (Folic Acid) an Important Vitamin for Preventing Birth Defects


Okra in ETHIOPIA: Berta Community

Berta is one of the five local ethnic groups found in Benishangulumuz regional state. According to 2007 national census survey (CSA, 2007) report around 173,743 Berta communities found in the region. This local community resides along the Ethiopia Sudan border and they shared same ethnic group in the other side (Sudan) of Ethiopia-Sudan border. Berta community use some special local foods like ocra ( kenkase) , hibiscus (kerkada)and bamboo shoot as a stable food recipe in the area.

The Berta community usually uses okra as a wet to eat food prepared from sorghum and maize, sorghum and maize are the two main stable crops cultivated in the area.

Besides using okra for household consumption, there is a great demand for the plant in the local market to be used for the town communities like in Asosa and also substantial amount of it is cross to Sudan with rewarding price.

The Berta community proudly reported that the reason behind resisting from the high risk of malaria case in the area, for their digestive system and general healthy condition is their food habit of using okra in their food.

Future Direction

As we can see Okra is very important crop for the local Berta community and research papers show that okra is become known in western and North American dishes. However there is no significant promotion and research done in Ethiopia to promote and enhance the food value and market of okra. Future research strategies should give emphasis on promoting local food like okra that have play significant role in improving nutritional content of the Ethiopian dish.

Research and development focuses on traditional food plants and on essential oils shall be one of the Ethiopian national agriculture research systems program in addressing the national calorie deficit , malnutrition and for the treatment of life style diseases that are recently become prevalent  in urban parts of the community.

Since processed food items derived from traditional crops like have a potential export market value, on the quest of developing traditional and indigenous plants that have a great medicinal value for fighting diabetes, nutritional dense in micronutrients and treating the case of different cancer cells could be a source of generating additional income if they are properly researched, developed and marketed.


Reading material reviewed

How to Plant and Grow Okra | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2325331_plant-grow-okra.html#ixzz1LISuMOn0












India ‘Food security bill’ can be global example

New Delhi : The proposed National Food Security Bill has the potential to be a global example, experts from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Oxfam said here Tuesday.

India stands at the threshold of potentially the largest step towards food justice the world has ever seen, as the National Food Security Bill works its way through parliament,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Britain-based IDS, said.

“Although the bill alone won’t fix India’s food system, the world will be watching to see if it can provide a template for other countries to follow,” Haddad said ahead of the launch of a bulletin by IDS and voluntary organisation Oxfam in the national capital.

The bill aims to give legal right to cheaper foodgrain to 63.5 per cent of the population. Around 180 million households — 65 million below poverty line (BPL) and 115 million above poverty line (APL) category families — get subsidised rations under the PDS through the fair price shops.

The bulletin examines food justice in the country and addresses questions on empowering the marginalised and women.


“Due to India’s large population, the country is home to 42 percent of the world’s underweight children and 31 per cent of its stunted children. India has alarming levels of hunger on the global hunger index,” said Nisha Agrawal, chief executive officer of Oxfam India.

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U.S. and India to help African food security

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Monday announced a U.S.-Indian partnership to promote food security in Africa, harnessing technology to battle starvation in a part of the world where China has boosted its presence.

“We are going to share Indian expertise with farmers in Africa,” Obama said in a speech to India’s parliament.

The project will link U.S., Indian and African universities to spread knowledge and boost innovation, while deploying technology to improve drought-resistant farming.

“This is an indication of India’s rise — that we can now export hard-earned expertise to countries that see India as a model for agricultural development,” said Obama, in a speech that capped his first visit to the country as president.

The initiative was among several U.S.-Indian partnerships announced by the president during his address to parliament, including collaboration over weather forecasting to provide earlier monsoon warnings for Indian farmers.

Obama also pledged to “resist protectionism” and to keep working with India to find an agreement over agricultural tariffs that are complicating efforts to finalize the Doha round of global trade talks.

India says it needs to maintains tariffs to protect its hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers, while the United States argues it needs to provide at least some market opening as part of a Doha deal.

“We can keep striving for a Doha Round that is ambitious and is balanced — with the courage to make the compromises that are necessary so global trade works for all economies,” Obama told Indian lawmakers.

(Reporting by Alister Bull, additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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India must implement food security law despite flaws: Amartya Sen

Chandra Ranganathan, ET Now Jan 10, 2012, 12.48AM IST

India must not obsess with how fast its economy is growing and instead pay more attention to its human development indicators which are worse than even that of Bangladesh, Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen said. Sen, known among his peers as the Conscience of Economics, said slower growth is not a good enough reason for national gloom. If India really must feel upset, it should be because the country is unable to provide proper nourishment to millions of its children or adequate healthcare to the poor, he said in an interview after chairing a jury meeting to select the winners of the Infosys Foundation’s awards in the social sciences category. If the government is really serious reviving national sentiment, it must forthwith implement the proposed food security law, despite its flaws, he told ET NOW’s Chandra Ranganathan . Edited excerpts:

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Will the National Food Security Bill Fight Hunger in INDIA?


While the fracas over the anti-corruption legislation known as the Lokpal Bill dominated the most recent session of Parliament, another new bill that is likely to more directly affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians has received much less attention.

The National Food Security Bill 2011 promises a legal right to cheap food for the poorest in the country. While India currently provides subsidized wheat and rice to the poor, this legislation would make food cheaper and provide more of it to poor families. The bill aims to cover 75 percent of rural households and 50 percent of urban households.

So far, discussion of the bill in the Indian media has focused on the cost of providing more cheap food – the bill would increase government spending by more than 200 billion rupees, or $3.75 billion, annually. India’s agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, has said it might be difficult for the government to buy enough grain to sustain the program. Congress party opponents argue that it is being introduced solely to garner votes ahead of upcoming elections.

A fundamental question about the bill remains: Would it actually alleviate hunger in India? India’s child malnutrition rates are worse than sub-Saharan Africa’s, and nearly half the country’s children are underweight, according to the World Bank. Improving the problem is seen as a crucial step the country’s development.

Several parts of the Food Security Bill make it hard to predict its impact on hunger.

First, the bill proposes a new way of identifying beneficiaries. Under the current system, the government provides subsidized food to everyone living below a poverty line. Under the new arrangement, households would be identified as “priority,” “general” or “excluded.” Priority and general families would receive subsidized food at different prices (those classified as priority would get a larger benefit).  Excluded households would receive no subsidized food. The draft bill does not specify how, exactly, families would be put into these categories, leaving the details to the federal government.

The bill does attempt to address the biggest shortcoming of the current system,  which is that many of the poor do not get the subsidized food they are entitled to. It does so by proposing that poor Indians get a food security allowance, or cash, along with a way that families could complain if they were not provided the food they should receive. One of the major concerns among nonprofit groups working with the poor, however, is that the money provided in lieu of food would go to the men of households, who might not use it to purchase food.

The bill has made an effort to empower women by recognizing them as heads of households, but without addressing how this would be enforced.

It is also unclear whether the agency that would handle complaints would be independent of the officials charged with providing subsidized food. The bill states that complaints would be investigated and resolved by district, state and national bodies. But these agencies would be under the direct control of the federal and state officials also responsible for providing subsidized food in the first place. State governments would also be required to set up vigilance committees, but those agencies’ powers would be limited to bringing violations to the attention of district officers and reviewing the implementation of the act.

Lastly, food would continue to be provided through the chaotic existing government food distribution system, which the proposal says the government should “endeavor to” overhaul. The absence of any time frame or penalties for not accomplishing that makes this aspect of the proposal merely a directive rather than enforceable. Many analysts argue that tackling inefficiencies in the current distribution system will require more than additional subsidies and more food. The Expert Committee on the National Food Security Bill set up by the prime minister, the Justice Wadhwa Committee established by the Supreme Court and a petition by a group of eminent economists have all  highlighted this concern.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that some critics of the bill say that while it is a step forward, the proposal does not tackle the fundamental problems that cause so many in India to go hungry.

India to Boost Investments in Ethiopia, Africa

By Yonas Abiye

Addis Ababa, May 26, 2011 (Ezega.com) – Seeking to inject fresh impetus to India’s strategic ties with African countries, Indian PM Manmohan Singh spent six days here in Addis Ababa, arriving from visiting Tanzania.

The Indian PM who was accompanied by a high-level delegation, was accorded a ceremonial red carpet welcome at Bole International Airport where Hailemarim Desalegem, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Indian diplomats were present to receive him.

As a host capital, Addis Ababa, the seat of the AU, was colorfully decorated with posters and banners to hail leaders participating in the meeting attended by leaders from 15 African countries.

The 2nd Africa-India Forum Summit which aims to widen cooperation between the two fast growing economies of the world is also intended to create a business platform for Indian investors with their African counterparts. This is apart from brainstorming and adopting a comprehensive framework to reinforce the regional cooperation in a wide range of fields to support bilateral cooperation between African countries and India, as well as discussion on possible ways to combat the twin threats of terrorism and piracy

As the leaders discuss significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing and widening India’s desire for “mutual benefit”, criticisms from media pundits are also mounting that the Asian giant strives to catch up with China in what has been dubbed “the new scramble for Africa”.

China and India Competition

The China comparison, which India faces often, is likely to keep lurking in the background. China’s ties with African countries has drawn a lot more attention than those between India and Africa, and many observers asked whether India is, or should be, competing with China on the African continent.

Bilateral India-Africa trade has grown from about £620m in 2001 to £28.5bn in 2010. According to India’s ministry of commerce and industry, this will reach £43bn by 2012.

Some 250 Indian companies have invested, mainly in telecommunications and chemical and mining companies.

Similarly many reports also indicate that India remains about a decade behind its Asian rival, China, with two-way trade standing at £75bn, a 43.5% increase from the previous year, and up from just £620m in 1992. China has built roads, bridges, railways and power stations in return for access to markets and resources.

Although the first summit, which took place in New Delhi in 2008, wasn’t groundbreaking, it was the first step towards establishing a framework for cooperation between India and African countries on areas ranging from business to humanitarian assistance to security.

One of the things that came out of it was India’s pledge to grant preferential market access to least developed countries, of which many are Africans.

Ethiopian-Indian Partnership

Accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and a high-level delegation, PM Singh was also expected to hold a sideline discussion with PM Meles Zenawi in a boost to the ever increasing of their bilateral relationship in various pillars of capacity building, investment and infrastructure development as well as financial assistance.

PM Sign’s visit to Ethiopia is the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister, although Indian President, S Radhakrishnan, visited Ethiopia in 1965 and then President V.V. Giri in 1972. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1950 with Sardar Sant Singh as the first Ambassador to Ethiopia.

India enjoys much goodwill here. Ethiopia values India as an” important partner” in its development efforts. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi frequently states publicly that China and India are Ethiopia’s preferred partners.

According to documents, the early Indian community in Ethiopia was predominantly from Gujarat. They came to Ethiopia in the later years of the 19th century.

During the imperial times, there were also tens of thousands of Indian teachers in schools all over Ethiopia, even in some remote parts of the country. The numbers of the Indian community fell very significantly during the Derg era.

Currently, there are around 2,000 estimated Indian citizens residing in various parts of Ethiopia – the majority being new investors and their employees.

After meeting with Prime Minister Meles last week, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, indicated that his country has offered to invest $4.78 billion in various projects in Ethiopia over the next few years, of which nearly $1 billion is already in the pipelines.

India is the largest foreign investor in Ethiopia with approved investment of $4.78 billion, said Sharma, adding that the current investment volume is nine-fold increase from just $500 million five years ago. It is a reflection of the growing Indian business interest in the continent where Indian investment is targeted to reach $70 billion by 2015.

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