EU-funded food technology project to help alleviate poverty by preventing food losses

Millions of the world’s poorest people in some of the most deprived regions could soon be helped by a new EU-funded food technology project that brings together researchers from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The 3-year project GRATITUDE (‘Gains from losses of root and tuber crops’) brings together 16 project partners from Ghana, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Led by scientists from the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute in the United Kingdom, the project partners aim to find new ways of reducing waste during the production of food crops vital to families in parts of Africa and Asia. Another aim of the project is to develop new products such as snack foods from the crops, and seek new markets. The fact that the consortium is made up of partners from both academic and business will help meet this aim.

Cassava and yam are important food security crops for approximately 700 million people worldwide, and their post-harvest losses are significant. These losses can be physical or economic, through discounting or processing into low-value products, or can result from bio-wastes. By reducing such losses, the role these crops play in food and income security can be enhanced.

Post-harvest physical losses are exceptionally high and occur throughout the food chain. Losses in economic value are also high, for example, cassava prices can be discounted by up to 85% within a couple of days of harvest. The project will also focus on improving how waste such as peels, liquid waste, and spent brewery waste is used, so that higher value products can be produced for human consumption, including snack foods, mushrooms and animal feed.

At the moment, growers can lose up to 60% of yam and 30% of cassava during the processing of the crops after harvesting through rotting, poor storage, transport and price discounts. The researchers hope to reduce these losses by implementing better storage and processing techniques to reduce waste and turn it into something of value.

The success of different products in different regions will shared with partners in other parts of the world via digital links. It is hoped that the project will help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make connections with large-scale industry and lead to job creation.

The project will start by launching pilot schemes to reduce waste in Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam and Thailand.

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