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Since 1990, food availability has declined by 3 % in Sub-Saharan Africa with the number of undernourished people increasing to 200 million (33 % of the population). Addressing post-production constraints such as poor access to markets or improved on-farm storage is an important approach to enhancing livelihoods. The quality and safety of food commodities is also very important, especially for the poor. Growing concern about food standards and safety has emphasized the need for robust quality assurance systems for national and international supply chains. However, most post-harvest handling, processing and marketing systems operate at a rudimentary level and it is increasingly important to address areas of strategic importance such as:
- small enterprise development;
- supply chain management;
- livelihoods development in a market economy;
- valued-added transformation technologies; and
- public-private sector coalition research management.
The Natural Resources Institute addresses the issue of the farmers, processors and traders for remunerative markets by taking a systems-based approach which involves key public and private sector partners from all points in the market chain and partnerships of service providers. Our multi-disciplinary approach combines traditional areas of expertise in post-harvest management including product handling, storage and processing, with areas of increasingly strategic importance such as supply chain management and livelihoods development in a market economy, including:
- Development of improved safety and quality assurance systems and post-harvest technologies against pests, pathogens and physiological disorders, with emphasis on non-chemical methods, to improve the marketability of fresh and processed products for domestic and international markets;
- Management of food quality and safety through HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) to ensure the production and delivery of safe and hygienic food;
- Characterisation and evaluation of durable and perishable crops with regard to their agronomic and storage potential and bio-chemical/nutritional properties;
- Defining institutional and policy arrangements for achieving demand-driven innovations post-harvest research and development, and technology uptake with public and private sector partners;
- Development of processing and product development at household, small enterprise and commercial levels;
- Expert witness and advisory service: appraisal of damaged commercial and food aid consignments in world trade;
- Delivery of Food Safety teaching programmes to Diploma and Masters levels and a range of bespoke technically-oriented professional packaged courses in Grain Storage Management, Post-Harvest Horticulture, Packaging, HACCP.
A summary of some of NRI’s recent and on-going activities is given below.
Supporting SMEs turn cassava into a high value commodity
NRI is at the forefront of helping the rural poor to gain improved incomes from cassava. Studies in West and East Africa have demonstrated that market opportunities exist that would enable cassava to contribute significantly to poor people’s livelihoods. These market opportunities include high-quality cassava flour for bakery products, cassava flour-based paperboard adhesives, glucose syrups, industrial alcohol, plywood glue extenders and high-quality cassava-based foods (fermented fufu, pounded fufu, kokonte, cassava grits and local “starch”) to meet the changing and growing urban demand. NRI produces “best practice” tools and technologies to develop the chain from production to consumption using a holistic approach which takes into account market demand and consumer preferences, the needs of rural products and processors and the needs of newly emergent or established SMEs. Issues of technology development, market economics, business development and social development are addressed in an integrated manner. http://www.nri.org/cassava-smes/index.html
Grain Storage: using innovative partnerships to promote grain protection
Resource-poor farmers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, lose a sizeable
proportion of their harvested grain to insect pests during storage, and
consider this loss a serious livelihood constraint. However, farmers’ fears
of mixing synthetic chemical pesticides with their food have highlighted
the need for alternative grain protection methods. Research
by NRI with University of Zimbabwe, Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and
Food Security, Zimbabwean Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Diatom
Research and Consulting has shown that diatomaceous earths (DEs) offer
a real alternative to conventional synthetic insecticides and to traditional
grain protection practices on maize, sorghum, cowpeas and beans. To
optimise the eventual uptake of DEs account is being taken of the manner
in which different poorer farmers (e.g. disaggregated by gender, education,
wealth) access and share storage knowledge, and of the capacity of intermediate
agencies to share information with rural households and influence policy.
Further information can be found at http://www.nri.org/de/index.html
Appropriate safety systems for street-vended foods
The dramatic growth of urban populations in developing countries poses great challenges to food systems and how they are managed. A feature of the urbanization process has been the development of informal food supply systems such as street-vended foods. While street-food vending can be an effective way of providing low-cost nutrition to urban populations it can also pose risks to health, in particular the young, elderly and those with HIV/AIDS. NRI is developing appropriate food safety systems based on HACCP with a strong partnership approach in Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, involving NGOs (street-food vendors, consumer groups), local authorities, food safety organizations, environmental agencies and research and consultancy. Further information can be found at http://www.nri.org/projects/streetfoods/
Reaching end users with biofortified crops
Vitamin A deficiency affects over 127 million pre-school children. Annually, between 250,000 and 500,000 pre-school children go blind from this deficiency and about two-thirds die within months of going blind. The HarvestPlus project, Reaching End Users with Biofortified Crops, seeks to reduce vitamin A deficiency by effectively disseminating and developing sustainable marketing and production systems for biofortified orange-flesh sweetpotato in targeted regions within Uganda and Mozambique. NRI is assessing all aspects of the post-harvest and marketing systems for sweetpotato in Mozambique and Ugandan to ensure sustained uptake of orange-fleshed sweet-potato.
Best, R., Westby, A. and Ospina, B. (2006) Linking small-scale cassava and sweetpotato farmers to growth markets, experiences, lessons and challenges. Acta Horticulturae 703: 39-46.
Dziedzoave, N. T., Graffham, A. J., Mensah, B. A. and Gyato, C. (2002) Use of cassava flour in paperboard adhesives. Proceedings of the 12th Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops. Tskuba Science City, Japan. 10-16 September 2000. Pages 95-99.
Hodges R.J. and Farrell G. (2004) (Eds) Crop Post-harvest: Science and Technology. Volume 2 Durables. Case studies in the handling and storage of durable commodities. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. pp. 264
Mvumi, B.M., Morris, M., Stathers, T.E., Riwa, W. (2003) Partnership in research and development of diatomaceous earth technology for small-scale on-farm grain protection in sub Saharan Africa. Paper prepared for GFAR meeting, Dakar, Senegal. 8 pp.
Sanni, L.O., O. B. Oyewole, A. O. Dipeolu, K. Adebayo, I. A. Ayinde, J. L. White, K. I. Tomlins, A. Westby Effect of Traditional Variations in Processing and Storage on the Quality of Nigerian Fufu. Journal of Food Technology 2 (4): 225-231, 2004.
Stathers, T.E., Mvumi, B.M., and Golob, P. (2002) Field assessment of the efficacy and persistence of diatomaceous earths in protecting stored grain on small-scale farms in Zimbabwe. Crop Protection, 21(10): 1033-1048.
Tomlins, K. I., Manful, J. T., Larwer, P. and Hammond, L. (2005). Urban consumer acceptability and sensory evaluation of locally produced and imported parboiled and raw rice in West Africa, Food Quality and Preference, 16, 79 – 89.