Latest super food, the chia seed, is returning super profits for small-scale farmers in Uganda.
For some of the world’s elite and health conscious, the chia seed marks a height of status just like the rival Goji berries, kombucha, wheatgrass and acai berries – who have all been, received enthusiastic endorsement from television celebrities, and passed – once did. For others, most notably living in the rural lands of Uganda, chia is the seed for survival.
The success of the seed has meant that farmers have turned from traditional crops to farm the product. So far, farmers have seen their earnings increase three-fold.
First grown halfway across the world by the Aztecs in South America, the super food now holds a strong position in the Ugandan region.
Chia Organic was the first company to grow chia seeds in Uganda on mass, their product is now so popular internationally, that they can’t even meet 30% of the demand for it.
The global focus on the product has moved away from the seed’s ancient routes in South America, to mainland Africa. Anne Nacharia, Director of Chia Organic, believes that Ugandan chia is more popular than the seed grown in other countries because of the fresh Ugandan soil.
“Most of the soil in Uganda is virgin,” Nacharia told Al Jazeera.
“It [the soil] hasn’t been farmed: So we don’t expect any pests to be in the soil; we don’t expect any chemicals to be in the soil; we do not expect any form of weeds – these funny funny weeds that attack chia in Mexico.
“Because of the virginity of the land, and because of the non-existence of pests in the soil, we are able to farm absolutely chemical-free – no pesticides, no fertiliser and still we are able to get a very high yield.”
Currently, health-devotees in the West are following the research on chia’s well-known health benefits. But farmers are concerned that the demand may soon disappear, as another super food is discovered and grabs the attention of the West.
To combat this, companies are making an effort to try to create a market for the seed in Uganda. At the moment, the majority of chia grown in Uganda is exported, but there is an increasing market for this product – as the health benefits of the food become better known.