Preserving African Food Microorganisms for Green Growth

Start date
January 1, 2014
End date
December 31, 2018
Project code
Total grant
Contact person
Lene Jespersen

The aim of the project is to turn the food sector in West Africa into a driver of sustainable growth, improve food security, create new business opportunities, ensure job generation, alleviate poverty and create stronger linkages between relevant stakeholders. The major part of West African foods are fermented (i.e. foods produced by the activity of microorganisms) and do play a predominant role in the diet of West Africans. Fermented foods have many advantages; they are produced from local crops, at reduced energy cost, they are nutritious and generally free from pathogens, they have a long shelf life and can be stored unrefrigerated. They are mainly produced and sold by women and constitute an important source of family income. Globalization and urbanization however challenge the traditional food culture and thereby the livelihood of many families. To preserve these valuable foods it is important to up-scale from household to semi-industrial scale, control these otherwise spontaneous fermentation by adding starter cultures, introduce quality
control systems, increase the productivity and quality in the production chain, improve marketability by developing business models and implement sustainable packaging technologies and ways of distribution. West African microorganisms are unique and an important natural biological resource well-suited to the West African climate and crops. To obtain a sustainable West African food production it is therefore important to preserve the inherent microbiota of West African fermented foods. The project will isolate and scientifically characterize these microorganisms, establish national bio-banks in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin, develop technologies for production and distribution of starter cultures to SMEs, create new market opportunities through up-scaling from house-hold to semi-industrial scale, upgrade specific indigenous foods to convenience food – produced and packaged to fulfil the needs of an urbanized population.


Midterm report 2016:

Value chains analyses including interviews with SME’s and consumer studies have been performed in the West African countries by multidisciplinary teams. The fermented foods included are millet based fura and milk based nunu from Ghana, milk based lait caille from Burkina Faso and cereal based mawè from Benin. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeasts isolated from the spontaneous fermentation of the studied products are being identified and deposited in the installed biobanks. A procedure for biobank management is finalised.
Based on the identification results scientific papers are submitted/in preparation and ten posters published. Consortium members have investigated possibilities of bio packaging.
Studying the technological properties of identified LAB and yeasts as well as probiotic characteristics of yeasts are ongoing activities together with business model development. The project has been presented and disseminated at numerous events during the year.