Creating value and enhancing nutrition of maize-based food products through the lime-cooking process (nixtamalization).

Diversify maize-based food products and enhance nutrition and development in Kenya by dissemination of nixtamalization technology

Photo of Rahma Adam
5 7

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1k - $10k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Kenya

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Kenya: Kitale, Njoro and Katumani


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

More than 60% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. With 13% being under-nourished, 22% of women overweight and 35% of children (<9 years) stunted. Maize is the most important staple crop in SSA, including Kenya with per capita consumption of 103 kg/yr. Even though maize supplies many macro- and micro-nutrients necessary for human metabolism, the amount of nutrients is inadequate for consumer. Thus, the nutritional content of maize-based food products must be increased while opening income opportunities to the people.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Dissemination of nixtamalization technology at the community level in 3 cities of Kenya. Lime-based cooking of maize (nixtamalization) is a traditional technique widely and traditionally used in Mesoamerica but never transferred to Africa. The process involves cooking and steeping of maize in calcium hydroxide and water. Nixtamalization has nutritional benefits over unprocessed maize. The benefits include: 1) reduced aflatoxin levels; 2) reduced risk of pellagra; 3) increased calcium intake, supply of dietary fiber and bioavailability of iron and zinc. Nixtamalization can increase diversification of maize-based food products for purposes of enhancing nutrition and health. In Mexico, there are over 300 products. Moreover, artisanal and small-scale commercial production using nixtamalization can generate jobs, income and reduce poverty.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Current impact: (a)Local Kenyan women and men have started purchasing nixtamalized products (e.g. tortillas, chips) in supermarkets, showing the products’ lucrative nature. (b) Kenyans are interested in producing and selling nixtamal products, and producing tortilla presses and grinder machines for sale. Projected impact: (a) Improved health and reduced illness in the population. Nixtamalized maize has nutritional advantages and can reduce aflatoxin levels. (b) Nixtamalized maize has better dough characteristics, for instance, to make tortillas, while conventional maize in Africa is mostly consumed as porridge. Nixtamalization can diversify the maize products and substitute maize for wheat in chapattis. (c) Small Medium enterprises, local women, men and youth will adopt the technology from the project. (d) The impact will initially be in Kenya, but will be applicable to other regional countries with high maize consumption and similar consumption patterns e.g. Tanzania.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Currently: The Government of Mexico has donated two industrial mills to Kenya, thus the grant is ~40 % covered. For the next activities in kind support (facilities, laboratories, etc) by Kenya Agricultural & Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) and CIMMYT is included. In addition both institutions are part of the Kenyan nixtamalization steering committee which works on continuous fundraising regarding nixtamalization activities in the country. Additionally, KALRO has already developed Kenyan adapted nixtamalized maize-based food products. In the future, the project will include their commercial production to sell their products in different markets as earned income, estimated to cover 60% of the funds.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Nixtamalization, simple, accessible, adaptable and replicable, is widely used in Mesoamerica with improved health benefits and many examples of income generation especially for women. The traditional process is not disseminated yet in Kenya but industrial nixtamalized products are already available in Nairobi supermarkets. We aim to link the maize value chain from farmers to consumers to empower women and youth to develop and establish the processing technology and improve health of the people.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Mexico has 600+ maize-based food products; about half are derived from nixtamalization. Kenya only has about 10 products. Thus, we wondered why people cannot process maize differently to get nutritionally enhanced maize-based food. During field demonstrations and subsequent discussions with the Kamungai participants, we realized that introducing nixtamalization would create value for maize and could be more appropriate than promoting it only for its nutritional and health benefits. Many participants were interested in the tortilla press and grinder as sources of income by locally manufacturing them or using available ones for new products. Additionally, at Mimwaita, more people discussed how nixtamal products could be sold to generate additional income. A win-win scenario can be achieved generating income for people and contributing to nutritional improvements.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact


Join the conversation:

Photo of Séverin Tchibozo

Do you know others experienc or you are only one in Africa?

Photo of Rahma Adam

Thanks for your question Tchibozo. I have seen some few nixtamalized products in very few supermarkets in Nairobi, Kenya. There is a very small company that makes these products i.e. tortilla chips, but its reach is very small. I have yet to see another company or organization in Africa in the countries that I am working in (Eastern and Southern African countries), that has that this particular expertise---able to practice and disseminate nixtamalization technology.

View all comments