Value-added processing of underutilised savanna tree seeds for improved food security and income generation in West Africa

Project summary

The West African savanna region has a fragile ecological system that is vulnerable to prolonged droughts and food shortages. It is shared by countries with some of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. The region is however well endowed with underutilised wild plants that can be processed to improve food security and poverty alleviation. This project will study the value-added processing of seeds from three semi-domesticated native trees, namely,the African locust bean (Parkia biglobosa), baobab (Andansonia digitata) and the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). Improved fermentation methods will be developed to enhance their food quality and health aspects. In this regard, research will focus on the development and use of multifunctional starter cultures and improved processing equipment. Advanced molecular and biotechnological methods will be transferred to African partners through knowledge sharing and networking activities. Pilot plants will be established at the partner institutions to undertake application studies and provide training for small-scale food processors. Dissemination of project results will be undertaken through demonstrations, local and regional workshops and public media presentations. About 20 scientific papers will be published in reputed international journals. Capacity building will also include training of 3 Ph.D. and a number M.Sc. students. The project is undertaken by 2 institutions from Denmark and one each from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali.


Completion Report - Summary
The project has aimed to optimize the processing of seeds from three semi-domesticated and wild trees common to the savanna region i.e. African locust bean, baobab and kapok trees, as means of improving income generation and food security in areas of Northern Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali. Surveys have been conducted on how to increase the utilization of seeds as raw material for traditional fermented foods. Seed dehulling machines have been developed and installed for identified women’s cooperatives to optimize the processing of seeds to the benefit of the women producers including improvements of working conditions, reduced consumption of fire wood and faster fermentations. Both traditional and optimized fermentation processes have been researched using e.g. advanced molecular techniques. The research has led to the creation of multifunctional starter cultures which have been implemented at local production sites leading to controlled fermentations, improved food quality and enhanced human nutrition.

New technologies for making products with higher sensory and nutritional quality as well as better consistency have been implemented in order to improve marketability. Beneficial effects of the fermenting bacteria on human health have been discovered. Equipment for amino acid analysis of the fermented products and microbiological laboratories have been setup and are now running as part of the capacity building efforts in the partner institutions.


Quality management has been adapted to women’s cooperatives for consistent food quality and food safety. Good hygienic practices based upon the HACCP concept has been presented in a written as well as a pictorial version applicable at smaller production sites and in villages. Training of PostDocs, PhDs, MSc and BSc students as well as laboratory technicians has been carried out and research outcomes have been published in international peer reviewed scientific journals.


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