Research Key

Production of local complementary food from maize, Larvae of Palm Weevils and moringa leaves

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Home Economics
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Qualitative method
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Descriptive statistics 
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Cereals-based complementary foods are commonly used in resource poor settings in developing countries. However, they are characterized by poor nutritional quality both in terms of macro and micro nutrients.

This study, aimed to develop nutritionally enriched and sensorial accepted complementary food from locally available food sources (maize, Larvae of Palm Weevils and moringa leaves). Three formulations of the composite flours were prepared (45:35:20, 80:15:5, 70:18:12) using Excel Solver application with maize, Larvae of Palm Weevils and moringa leaves respectively.

Standard methods were used to conduct chemical analysis and sensory evaluation of the complementary foods. The major response variables of nutritional composition, anti-nutritional factors, functional (Physical) proprieties and sensory acceptability of formulations after cooking were investigated.

Results showed a significant difference in protein, fat, carbohydrate, iron, and zinc content of porridge prepared from different blending ratio of ingredients. Protein, carbohydrate, Iron and Zinc content of the porridge ranged respectively from 20-55g, 32-179g, 7.34-14.89g and 3.62-7.07g.

Increasing trend was observed in the protein and iron content of the complementary food with an increase in the proportion of Larvae Palm Weevils. Sensory evaluation results showed that the overall acceptability of the complementary food is 85%. 

The optimized proportions for that above overall acceptability was maize (80g), Larvae of Palm Weevils (15g) and moringa leaves (5g) blending ratios. In sum, it can be concluded that locally available and low cost food ingredients used in the present study have good potential to develop complementary foods with enhanced nutritional value and sensorial acceptability for resource-poor households.



Breast milk is the perfect food for the infant during the first 6 months of life UNICEF (2006) because it contains all the nutrients and immunological factors an infant requires in maintaining optimal health and growth (Onabanjo et al., 2009).

However, at about 6 months, the supply of energy and some nutrients from breast milk is no longer adequate to meet an infant’s needs, hence; complementary feeding becomes necessary to fill the energy and nutrient gap (Dewey and Brown, 2003).

World Health Organization (WHO, 2009) defines complementary feeding as “a process starting when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, and therefore other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk”.

In order to provide infants with additional nutrients, complementary foods (foods other than breast milk or infant formula) should consequently be introduced to the infants. The target age is for 6–23 months, even though breastfeeding may continue beyond two years (PAHO/WHO, 2002).

 The gap between nutritional requirement and amount obtained from breast milk increases with age. For energy, 200, 300, and 550 kcal per day is expected to be covered by complementary foods at 6–8, 9–11, and 12–23 months, respectively.

In addition, the complementary foods must provide relatively large proportions of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B6. In several parts of the developing world, complementary feeding continues as a challenge to good nutrition in children.

In Cameroon, only 4.2% of breastfed children of 6–23 months of age have a minimum acceptable diet. The gaps are mostly attributed to either poor dietary quality or poor feeding practices, if not both. Commercial fortified foods are often beyond the reach of the poor.

Thus, homemade complementary foods remain commonly used. Even when based on an improved recipe, however, unfortified plant-based complementary foods provide insufficient key micronutrients (especially, iron, zinc, and calcium) during the age of 6–23 months and this is what this chapter presents the background of the study, it states the problem, the objective of the study and further raises some research questions.

1.1Background of the study

Exclusive breastfeeding of infants from birth through initial 6 months using breast milk (the ideal food during this period) is important for optimal health, growth, and development (WHO, 2004).

As infants grow and become more active following the first 6 months of life, however, breast milk alone falls short of providing the full nutritional requirements – where the gap keeps expanding with the increasing age of the infants and young children. Complementary feeding plays critical role in bridging these gaps.

The target age range for complementary feeding is between the age of 6 and 23 months (with continued breastfeeding), where most infants reach a general and neurological stage of development (chewing, swallowing, digestion, and excretion) that enables them to be fed other foods rather than breast milk  (UNICEF, 2011).

Complementary foods could be especially designed transitional foods (to meet particular nutritional or physiological needs of infants) or general family foods, and are expected to address the gaps between the daily energy and nutrient requirement of infants and young children and the amount obtained from breastfeeding (Alive and Thrive 2015). ].

 Animal-source foods (ASFs) like Larvae of Palm Weevils are important components of diverse diets, providing protein and essential micronutrients that promote growth and development.

Increasing evidence points to the positive impact of animal-source proteins on linear growth and physical and cognitive development in children (Grace et. al 2018) .The World Health Organization recommends that children 6 to 23 months of age consume ASFs daily.

Yet, ASFs are often costly and remain out of reach for many low-income households; larvae of palm weevils are very nutritious and affordable then to be valorised for the formulation of complementary food.

A study published by Beatrice Mofoluwaso in 2020 on the evaluation of nutrient composition, energy value, mineral concentration and amino acids composition of larvae of raphia palm weevil (Rhynchophorus phoenicis) showed that the crude protein and fat contain were 31.6 and 17.3 respectively. The calorific value in Kcal 100g-1 sample was 425.

Mineral found in high concentrations are : iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus with the ash content of 4.2. The  amino acids profile showed that larvae of raphia palm weevil are good sources of essential and non-essential amino-acids including cysteine, methionine and valine.

Moringa is an important food source in some parts of the world. Because it can be grown cheaply and easily, and the leaves retain lots of vitamins and minerals when dried, moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programs to fight malnutrition. 

All  malnourished children need to be treated with a teaspoonful of moringa powder every day for three months in order to regain strength and weight (UNICEF,2015). The FAO notes that moringa leaves are rich in protein, in vitamins A, B and C and mineral salts and recommends it for expectant women, nursing mothers and small children.

1.2 Problem statement

 The challenges during complementary feeding are context specific, but many are common across settings. They are often characterized by poor feeding practices and poor dietary quality of homemade complementary foods.

Poor feeding practices are characterized by poor timing of complementary foods introduction (too early or too late); infrequent feeding; and poor feeding methods, hygiene, and child-care practices.

Added to these is the poor dietary quality of the foods served, characterized as too little variety; inappropriate consistency (food is too thin or too thick); too few essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, iron, zinc, and calcium; too few essential fatty acids; and too few calories among non-breastfed infants.

The poor quality and lack of diversity in foods adversely affects the children’s growth and nutritional status.

Poor nutrition has immediate consequences of increased morbidity and mortality and delayed development of the brain and other nervous systems. The latent impacts of deficits in nutrients in early ages include impaired cognitive performance and reproductive outcomes and reduced work capacity and health status during adolescence and adulthood.

Further (Asoba,2018) in her study in the Mount Cameroon area concluded that anaemia is a severe public health problem among children ≤5 years of age in this area hence, control measures to curb the burden should focus on children ≤2 years of age, those from single parents and those whose parent had no formal education.

Iron fortified diets should be given to infants who are given complementary feeding before the first months of life in order to reduce the prevalence of anaemia within the first six months of age.

The study had as limitations some unmeasured factors such as micro-nutrient deficiency, and markers of inflammation which may have acted as confounders on the risk of the presence of anaemia.

Never the less, the findings of the study demonstrated the invaluable contribution of infant feeding habits to these public health problems in children ≤5 years of age. In several parts of the developing world, complementary feeding continues as a challenge to good nutrition in children of 6–23 months (World Bank, 2015) 

Asoba et al. in Cameroon 2018 , After carrying out the nutritional analysis of some local weaning foods, realized that Vita Force, Soytine, Soyaconia, Soya pap, Tanty Reine and Dina Baby had higher moisture content when compared to the standardized moisture content of Cerelac and the moisture content was within the recommended value.

The protein content of weaning foods varied significantly with that of Cerelac, with Dina Baby having the least protein content.

The local weaning foods were lactose free. Potassium and calcium were the most abundant minerals present in the local weaning foods. The values of vitamins content measured were well above the values recommended.

The essential amino acids were significantly higher compared to FAO/WHO recommended pattern for children. In Cameroon, 77.4% of the children were introduced to complementary food before the recommended age of 6 months.

This high frequency is similar with studies in Nasarawa, Nigeria, where 69–82% of children are reported to have been introduced to complementary foods before 6 months (Dewey, 2014). Early introduction to solid foods, early cessation of breastfeeding and increased consumption of fatty or sugary foods at 1 year of age are risk factors for infection.

(Asoba 2018) showed that 77.3% of infants’ ≤5 years of age  taking complementary food in the Mount Cameroon area were anaemic indicating anaemia is a severe public health problem based on the WHO classification .

This high prevalence of anaemia could be attributed to the Low quantity of iron in the complementary food. Also, most of their farm products are taken to the market to sell hence, the children are likely not well fed and taken care of. In addition to this, the socio-economic instability in South west Cameroon has affected mostly the farmers in the rural and semi-rural communities.

The high prevalence of anaemia in children given complementary food before 6 months could be attributed to the fact that, the complementary feed unlike breast milk is not uniquely suited to the infants’ nutritional needs and it is not given in adequate proportions.

In 2009, WHO reported that, infant and young child feeding practice is suboptimal throughout the world especially the late initiation of breastfeeding, prelacteal feeding, early or late introduction of optimal complementary foods, giving poor quality, quantity and unhygienic complementary food, and using a bottle to feed the child are the common practices in developing countries.

Adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is essential to ensure the growth, health and development of children to their full potential . Hence, the first two years of life provide a critical window of opportunity for prevention of growth faltering and under-nutrition through optimal feeding.

The burden of iron deficiency can be reduced by taking a more holistic approach that would include promotion of healthy weaning practices and use of appropriate complementary foods, together with improving the nutritional value of such foods.

It is in the light of this that the researcher intends to produce a local complementary food using maize, larvae of raphia palm weevil and moringa leaves.

1.3 Research questions    

To produce local complementary food from maize, larvae of palm weevil (Rhyncophorus Phoenicis) and moringa leaves. Some questions are to be asked for example:

  • Are there any nutrients in the local complementary food?

1.4 Research objectives

General Objectives

  • To produce local complementary food using maize, larvae of palm weevil and moringa leaves

Specific Objectives

  • To produce maize flour, larvae of palm weevil flour, moringa leaves flour
  • To produce local complementary food using maize, larvae of palm weevil and moringa flour
  • To evaluate the sensory properties of the complementary food
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