It is abright morning on Thursday10, 2019 with no signs of rain visible in the skies. I and a colleague embark on a journey to Katindigo, a village located in Mpigi district about 15 kilometers off Kayabwe town along the Kampala–Masaka Road.
Kayabwe, a town where the Equator line passes is located about 82 kilometres, by road, south-west of Kampala.
The purpose of this trip is solely to learn more about the ‘new crop’ making money savvy Ugandans richer quickly.
In this village, lie 20 acres of a rare crop not only to the locals, but many Ugandans. The few locals and workers, I interacted with were ignorant about the ‘new crop’ in their village; some referred it to as ‘medicine for the whites’ while others feared it could be some sort of drug like marijuana.
At this time, I turn my attention to Emmanuel Bazooba, a co-owner of this 20-acre farm. He introduces this rare crop as Chia Seeds, one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Research suggests that Chia seeds are rich in nutrients, omega-3 fat, antioxidants and fiber.
They are easy to prepare and people commonly add chia seeds flour to their porridge and other foods.
Bazooba says he learnt about the crop through a friend in 2017 and started growing it in early 2018. He has made some good money from it and is looking forward to expanding his acreage.
But what does it take to grow chia seeds? Is it worth it?
Bazooba says Chia seeds are grown organically, thus no expenditure on pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers.
He says the crop has ready market in Uganda and abroad. A kilogram goes for a minimum of Shs4,000 and it can go up to Shs7,000.
According to his experience, an acre requires an investment of about Shs500, 000. On average, a farmer can harvest 400 kilograms per acre and taking Shs4000 as the minimum, one will earn Shs1.6m gross profit after four months. He recommends one to start with at least five acres in order to reap from benefits that accrue from economies of scale. This means that with an investment of Shs2.5m, one can earn a gross profit of Shs8m in a period of four months.
What you should know
He says Chia seeds require well drained loamy fertile soils since the crop is grown organically. One can also add organic manure in the soil to boost production, he says.
He advises farmers to prepare fields earlier before planting. This includes removing anthills within and around the plantation since termites tend to bite Chia seeds after germination. He also says farmers should cut all the trees within and around the field. This helps in keeping away pests that may attack Chia seeds.
“The field should be weed free,” he emphasizes, adding that two kilograms are enough to plant an acre. A kilogram for planting purposes goes for Shs10,000. Planting is mainly by broadcasting method just like millet is planted. However, a farmer can also plant Chia seeds in rows.
It is recommended you mix seeds with sand so that the plants aren’t too squeezed, he says.
“Planting an acre can be done in just hours at about Shs30,000,” he says.
He reveals that Chia seeds require enough rains in the first three months after planting.
“It is therefore important that a farmer plants at the onset of the rain season or do dry planting. Seeds will germinate after a week of sowing/planting,” Bazooba says.
Like other crops, Chia seeds aren’t weeds friendly.
“Once you keep Chia seeds weed free, they will grow healthy and have bigger seeds (because they won’t compete with weeds for nutrients),” he says.
Bazooba says that sunshine is needed during the fourth month so as to allow the seeds dry and harvested properly.
“When it rains during harvesting period, the seeds fall into the field and germinate again. You must have enough labour to harvest on time,” he says.
Chia seeds are harvested the way millet is harvested by cutting off the seed heads. The harvested Chia is placed on tarpaulins (tundubale) before threshing it using a machine.
Unlike other crops, Chia seeds market is readily available-for now. This is because many people world over are increasingly learning about the many benefits of this wonder crop. Bazooba says a kilogram of clean and packaged Chia seeds goes for Shs35,000 on the Ugandan market while 250 grams cost Shs10,000. He adds that the biggest market of Uganda’s Chia seeds is the international market.
There are a number of companies buying and exporting Chia seeds in Uganda.
like Chia seeds because of ready market. You don’t need to store it. Immediately
after harvesting, you sell it and at a good price. I would therefore encourage
Ugandans to embrace this crop not only by growing it, but also consuming it,”
The Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. They are packed full of nutrients.
A small one-ounce serving of chia seeds is full of different nutrients, making it easier for you to hit your nutritional goals each day you eat them. They can be added to many different foods to boost the nutritional intake for that specific meal.
These nutrients include: 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fats (5 grams of that are omega-3s), 18% of daily recommended calcium, 30% of daily recommended manganese, 30% of daily recommended magnesium, 27% of daily recommended phosphorus, Zinc, Vitamin B3, Potassium, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2.
2. They are low in calories.
One ounce of chia seeds packed full of all those nutrients is only about 137 calories. Additionally, it only has one gram of carbohydrates. With this being the case, your body is consuming a large number of required nutrients without consuming a large number of calories or unhealthy carbohydrates.
3. They have a large amount of antioxidants.
Each chia seed is full of antioxidants. Consuming antioxidants has many positive effects on the body. One of those effects is that they fight free radicals, which can cause quicker aging and can also cause cancer.
Antioxidants also protect the fats that are in chia seeds. A few other benefits of antioxidants are clearer, healthier skin and longer, shinier hair.
4. Chia seeds can aid your weight loss.
With the high soluble fiber and protein content, chia seeds help you lose weight quickly. They absorb a large amount of water and then expand, making your stomach feel more full than it really is. The protein works to reduce your appetite, which should also reduce the amount of food you eat.
Studies have shown that using chia seeds but making no other change does not improve your weight loss. Reducing your calorie intake or increasing the amount of exercise you do while consuming more chia seeds does benefit your health and weight loss journey, though. By adding chia seeds to your diet, you will speed up the weight loss process.
5. They may lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Since chia seeds have high amounts of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, they may lower your risk of heart disease. Some of the health benefits of chia seeds that come from these 3 nutrients are: Lower amounts of triglycerides, Less inflammation, Less insulin resistance, Less amounts of belly fat and Regulates blood pressure.
Each of the benefits listed above helps determine the health of your heart.
6. Lowers blood sugar in the blood.
Chia seeds are believed to help regulate blood sugar levels by improving your body’s insulin sensitivity. This helps keep blood sugar at a healthy level.
High blood sugar (also known as hyperglycemia) can wreak havoc on your body. If you have high blood sugar for a long time, it can cause damage to your blood vessels, your nerves, and even your organs.
If you over-indulge in sweet, sugary foods, you can also cause high blood sugar in that way. When this happens, the problems that occur are a little different but can still be just as severe. These issues include Obesity, High cholesterol, Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Asthma and Metabolic syndrome.
7. Helps relieve chronic inflammation.
Usually, chronic inflammation goes unnoticed because the only way to determine the issue is by monitoring the inflammatory markers in your blood. Chronic inflammation may include smoking, not enough exercise, or eating unhealthy foods most of the time.
Chia seeds are a common way to lower the number of inflammatory markers in your blood. Studies have shown that it can be reduced by about 40% simply by introducing chia seeds into your regular diet.
8. They are a brain booster.
One of the many health benefits of chia seeds is that they can enhance brainpower. There are several elements of brainpower including Energy, Focus, Ambition, Motivation, Discipline and Intelligence.
Chia seeds have the ability to enhance any (or all) of these elements to help perform everyday tasks.
Because they turn into a gel when they get wet, chia seeds can relieve constipation. When the gel develops, it adds bulk to your bowel movement, making it softer and easier to pass.
10. They encourage hair growth
Your hair needs many different nutrients in order to grow at a healthy rate. Each chia seed contains a number of those required nutrients. Some of the nutrients that are necessary for hair growth and are also found in chia seeds include Zinc, Protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and Magnesium.