Knowledge for a sustainable world

Gillian Summers, Keith I Tomlins


The three-year project Gratitude (Gains from Losses of Root and Tuber Crops) came to an end this month with its final dissemination exhibition and stakeholder forum meeting in Porto, Portugal.

The meeting was testament to good relations across continents and was particularly successful in the sharing of knowledge and experience among European, Asian and African partners through presentations, demonstrations of new products, posters and publications.

The EU-funded project, led by NRI in collaboration with 15 other organisations from Ghana, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, the UK and Vietnam, aimed to find solutions to reduce waste from the postharvest losses of root and tuber crops such as cassava and yam, and turn unavoidable waste into something of value. The project uncovered some exciting new findings.

It included the first study of its kind to compare waste handling in cassava value chains between Africa and Asia. An important discovery is that economic losses in the cassava value chain have tended to be underestimated and are higher than initially thought. Gratitude found losses varying from USD 20million in Vietnam and USD 500 million in Ghana, information that may direct future government policy in Ghana.

Through the project, innovative uses of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) were developed with a view to accessing the gluten free market in various countries, together with business plans to encourage implementation. HQCF has also been successfully tested at the consumer level in Vietnam, where it was found to be a viable option for inclusion in bread making.

The Gratitude project has discovered that using a mixture of cassava peels and stems on which to grow mushrooms, provides a similar mushroom yield as traditional sawdust. However, the cassava waste has two advantages; when properly fermented it does not need sterilisation and it is colonised more quickly by mushroom spawn. This makes the oyster mushroom crop more environmentally efficient by being less energy-demanding and faster growing, and thus more profitable. A business plan has been developed for a Ghanaian company to produce mushrooms in this way.

Alternative methods have been developed through the project for recovering starch from waste cassava pulp in Thailand using enzymes. Three million tonnes of pulp produce 300,000 tonnes of recovered starch, which has many uses and adds great value to the waste of these root crops. A business plan has been developed for a Thai starch company to develop this opportunity and pilot trials are currently being undertaken with a view to increased production during 2015.

Keith Tomlins, Project Coordinator summed up, “This project is about science, but more importantly about people. We have shown that a partnership of scientists from different continents can successfully work together to develop innovative ideas and solutions that can improve livelihoods, reduce waste and also improve the environment.”

Gratitude website