Traditional Grains Project: Stakeholder Workshop

We held a stakeholder engagement workshop in Kampala, Uganda, on August 18, 2015, to bring together professionals from a wide range of industries, including government officials, research organizations, business developers, nutritionists, chefs, communications experts, journalists, as well as product developers, manufacturers, and retailers. The workshop was structured to be a participatory event, and attendees were encouraged to share their insights and ideas.


The workshop included presentations by Pardee RAND alum Julius Gatune, representing ACET, and William Otim-Nape of AfII. RAND's Deborah Cohen presented on the rise of the superfoods movement and insights emerging from consumer market research, and Gatune followed with a review of information on public opinion and preferences around millet and sorghum, including barriers and facilitators.
ACET's Julius Gatune (a Pardee RAND alum) presents at the Traditional Grains stakeholders workshop

Julius Gatune presents at the stakeholder workshop

Photo by Saladin Media for the Pardee Initiative

Nambooze Joweria of AfII discussed the nutritional profiles of millet and sorghum vis-à-vis wheat, maize, and rice, and Pardee RAND student Michele Abbott and Saladin Media representative Mary Namatovu presented an overview of current trends in millet and sorghum, and opportunities for the future. Chef Henry Wanyama then considered the possibilities for innovation in millet and sorghum recipes.

A panel session included discussions of the potential for developing new products that are "ready-to-eat," based on new recipes, presented by Professor Yusuf Byaruhanga; and what it takes to move from innovation to supermarket shelf to dinner table, by Issa Wamala of Family Diet. Another session on how to reach consumers included Sylvia Nabukenya of Saladin Media on trends in food advertising in Uganda and the region, showcasing successful campaigns and lessons learned, and finally the proposal of the recipe contest idea, by RAND's Cohen and ACET's Gatune.

Nyambooze Joweria of Africa Innovations Institute participates in an interview at the Traditional Grains stakeholders meeting

A journalist interviews Nambooze Joweria of AfII

Photo by Saladin Media for the Pardee Initiative


During discussions following the workshop presentations, attendee comments underscored the barriers outlined by recent research conducted by The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII): quality, cost, and consumer demand.

The quality of millet and sorghum flours remains a large barrier, with post-harvest processing being a key challenge. Producers noted that much of the grain they receive from small farmers is not properly cleaned and may contain sand and debris. They noted that in some cases they must pay an extra 500 shillings per kilo just to receive millet grains without rocks included.

A second challenge is the cost of millet and sorghum flours, which are currently selling at two or three times the price of maize and wheat flours, their main competitors. High prices were linked back to the lack of commercial processing, and retailers noted that consumers expect local products to be cheaper than competing imports.

The third challenge was mentioned by supermarket retailers who have seen firsthand the recent decreases in sales of millet and sorghum. The retailers worry that increasing products will not necessarily lead to consumers actually purchasing the products, and therefore will be unsustainable.

Yusuf Byaruhanga of Makerere University speaks at the Traditional Grains stakeholders meeting

Prof. Yusuf Byaruhanga of Makerere University

Photo by Saladin Media for the Pardee Initiative


Workshop attendees also provided great insights into opportunities for product development and rebranding strategies. Professor Yusuf Byaruhanga from the Food Science and Technology department of Makerere University presented the cutting-edge product development that is currently a focus of investment.

Bushera, a traditional porridge that has historically been sold on streets out of plastic bags, is now being sold on supermarket shelves in plastic bottles and cans in a way that can now compete with popular soda drinks.

Quick-cooking millet flakes have also been developed to prepare the traditional Kalo (stiff porridge) in methods that are more convenient for busy consumers while also increasing the product's shelf life.

Other product developers discussed the large gap in the market that is ripe for new products, noting that consumers are loyal to products that have good taste and high quality. In addition, entrepreneurs exist, but they face capacity challenges in scaling products, so another opportunity is to support these entrepreneurs. The workshop's nutritionists voiced strong support while discussing the benefits of millet and sorghum as compared to wheat and maize. The chefs also noted that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in maintaining healthy and nutritious diets.

Wanyama Henry, professional chef at the Cooking School of Kampala, talks at the Traditional Grains stakeholders meeting

Chef Henry Wanyama talks at the workshop

Photo by Saladin Media for the Pardee Initiative

Cookery Competition

The afternoon session of the workshop was dedicated to a brainstorming session around the proposed cookery competition. Workshop attendees were enthusiastic about the planning process, provided many great ideas, and expressed interest in remaining engaged through planning committees.

It was agreed that in order to generate awareness, the competition should be open broadly to non-professionals, but that including a round of competition for the chefs may also generate more media attention and lead to more innovative recipes. In addition, there was a suggestion to open a round of the competition to entrepreneurs who are interested in product development.

Regarding prizes, workshop attendees noted that it may be better to spread money or awards across multiple prizes, and hypothesized that individuals will be more willing to enter the competition if their probability of winning a prize is higher, rather than a lower probability of winning but a higher value prize.

Workshop attendees also came to consensus regarding the planning committees that should be convened: an overarching Logistics & Organization Committee, a Sponsorship & Marketing Committee (including prizes, sponsors, publicity, and fundraising), and a Rules Committee (including entry and participation rules, judges, and selection criteria).