Sorghum and millet are the key ingredients to many West African staple dishes. While these foods are an important source of nutrition for individuals of all ages and backgrounds, they are often prepared using traditional methods that are labor-intensive and require multiple hours of preparation, a responsibility that typically falls to the women of the household. With increasing urbanization and disposable income, as well as a deeper understanding and desire for nutritionally balanced diets, consumer demand for these ready-made products is rising.
The project collaborates with urban and rural businesses, cooperatives and entrepreneurs to develop high-quality agglomerated products such as couscous and innovative composite flours that can be transformed into multiple products such as porridges and biscuits. These products are labeled, packaged, and targeted at consumers as ready-to-prepare and nutritious alternatives to traditional products. In addition to evaluating preferences for food product type and processing method, testing has also been conducted around the fortification of grain-based products with locally available, highly nutritious ingredients such as moringa and baobab with encouraging results.
Bruce Hamaker Cheikh N'Diaye
Mario Ferruzzi Moustapha Moussa
Fallou Sarr Djibril Traore
Kansas State University
Niger - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN), Université de Tillabéri
Senegal - Centre National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA), Institut de Téchnologie Alimentaire (ITA), Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Université de Thiès
The focus of this project is on resilience of the Hub Food Innovation Centers as convergence points for product innovation and drivers of economic and nutritional impacts for Niger and Senegal. Hub Food Innovation Centers are being strengthened to better engage with entrepreneurs, improve their effectiveness as product development centers, and bolster their sustainability. Process and product innovation of millet and sorghum foods is being enhanced by expansion of “next level” product development tools including sensory science capacity, packaging, and shelf-life assessment. These tools enhance their support for entrepreneurs and solidify INRAN and ITA as regional research and development centers. Activities are strengthening sensory science capacity at ITA Senegal to “raise the bar” of their product development capacity and establishing their potential as a regional center of development. Completion and optimization of food processes and products in Niamey, Niger and Dakar, Senegal include: 1) varietal optimization in traditional and new product concepts, 2) expanded product/process optimization to include packaging and shelf-life assessment, 3) training of candidate youth from local universities, 4) facilitate youth and existing women entrepreneur processors by allowing them to use the Hub processing facilities on a fee-basis, and market products.
A study is being conducted to test the hypothesis that nutritional status improvement can be achieved in rural communities in Niger through introduction of low-cost fortified millet-based foods designed with local ingredients and aligned with documented preferences of local consumers. The Hub-and-Spoke Food Innovation System is testing formulations developed from activities as well as developing new high quality, safe, and nutrient-enhanced millet products using local nutrient-dense plant ingredients for food-to-food fortification. The Hub-and-Spoke Food Innovation System should show if these locally produced products will gain a market and additionally be preferred to imported food-aid blends facilitating improved adoption by rural children in Niger.
In Niger, there have been scale-up activities for the Hub-and-Spoke Food Innovation System, jointly developed by SMIL and the McKnight Foundation. Three "secondary" rural spokes have been established near primary ones, and all are processing and and selling products. New Spoke Food Innovation Centers have been established in Burkina Faso and Mali under the McKnight Foundation project. Processing and sales data for rural and urban processors associated with the INRAN Hub have shown productive activities for the urban processors, particularly for the INRAN-SMIL incubated ETC processor with sales in over 40 stores. Rural Spokes processed and sold product despite difficulties related to travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and security issues.
Research at ITA/Dakar and INRAN/Niamey has advanced new millet and sorghum products developed at the food technology research centers. In Niger, sensory evaluations conducted at four rural sites and in Niamey showed good acceptability and texture of extruded fortified couscous-like products, lakiri (millet, peanut) and tousme (whole grain biofortified millet, moringa) compared to the traditionally prepared products. In Senegal, progress has been made in partnership with ISPA-CNR Bari, Italy, on development of a fermentation culture to be used in commercial processing of economic couscous for the Dakar and other urban markets, and in the development of fast-cooking arraw, a popular Senegalese starchy staple food. Dakar, Sengal processors have been engaged in development of both products and extending these technologies will be the next step. The sensory testing facility at ITA in Senegal is complete and certified sensory training for Dr. Cheikh N'diaye has taken place. Detailed shelf-life study designs have been made and planned studies are happening in Niger and Senegal.
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN)
Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles du Senegal (ISRA)