Semi-commercial smallholder evaluation of farmer-selected amaranth lines for yield, processing quality and nutritional content


GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards Round 3


South Africa



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About the project

UK-registered Partner: University of York – Katherine Denby
Africa-registered Partner: Agricultural Research Council – Michael Walday Bairu

The aim of the project was to conduct a semi-commercial smallholder farmer participatory trial of three farmer-selected amaranth lines to assess yield and suitability of the lines for making processed products. Amaranth is an underutilised traditional crop locally known as thepe or imbuya. Three lines have been selected by smallholder farmers after participatory trials in previous years, with selection based on yield, ease of harvesting and cooking, taste and popularity of fresh produce with informal vendors.

A participatory evaluation trial was planted with the Thelomoyaphans Garden Cooperative in Nkandla (Kwa-Zulu Natal) as well as with the Siyazisiza Trust, a NGO close to Mtunzini (Kwa-Zulu Natal). Fresh material from the trial was sold to various vendors within the Nkandla community but also to vendors from outside the community and local retail stores like Boxer. Large scale harvesting still poses a problem with labour as the cutting and sorting is labour intensive. Shelf life is also a problem and processing is essential for further commercialisation.

A portion of the fresh amaranth leaf from the trials were dried and milled at the Siyazisiza Trust processing centre. Dried powder has a much longer shelf-life than fresh produce and opens up additional market opportunities (including export) for smallholders. Due to the delayed rain, planting was only possible from December 2022. This resulted in leaf samples only available from mid-March 2023. While the fresh-produce quality parameters are recorded, a critical component of the project, value addition through laboratory analysis of packaged products is still underway.

Learn more about the project in this recording from our recent GCRF AgriFood Africa Project Showcase event.


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