Professor Wisdom Amoa-Awua, a Research Scientist at the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (FRI-CSIR) on Monday said it is important to preserve Ghana’s traditional local fermented foods to ensure food security, alleviate poverty and promote green growth.
He said food fermentation should therefore be looked upon as a green technology, as the activity of the microorganisms’ lowers energy and water consumption during processing and converts otherwise inedible raw materials to food.
Among some of the well-known fermented food are “fura”, popularly called fula, “wagashie”, “gari” and “pito”, and these were being studied by the FRI, under the Green Growth Project, to collate the traditional practices, production and distribution of these local Ghanaian fermented foods and to improve its production processes to aid its marketability.
There are also kenkey and banku as other known Ghanaian fermented food.
Fermented foods are said to be consumed extensively in many parts of Africa. In Ghana, it constitutes about 40 per cent of food consumed.
Prof Amoa-Awua explained further that fermented foods were additionally environmentally friendly as they are produced from local crops and could be stored unrefrigerated.
“They are nutritious, generally free from foodborne pathogens and ensure the livelihood of many families” he said.
Fermented foods are food substrates that are invaded or overgrown by edible microorganisms whose enzymes, particularly amylases, proteases, and lipases, hydrolyze the polysaccharides, proteins and lipids to nontoxic products with flavours, aromas, and textures pleasant and attractive to the human consumer, he said.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop in Accra, Prof Amoa-Awua said the FRI was currently carrying out series of studies that fall under the Green Growth Project, which aims at “Preserving African Microorganisms for Green Growth to improve the hygienic quality and shelf life of fermented food in three African countries, namely Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso.
The stakeholders were engaged and briefed on the project and to discuss with the SMEs on how to help them to develop business models in the way they could commercialize the fermented products.
Under the Green Growth project, being implemented by the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), in collaboration with local Research institutions and academia, local African export food chain were being developed to be promoted on the international market while food safety for fura, pito, gari and wagashie were being improved to help increase their demand.
The value addition for local raw materials ware also being ensured.
Implementation of the Green Growth Project started in 2014 and is expected to end in 2018. The project was to enable the West African partners to preserve and fully utilize their natural and economically valuable microbial resources, and to up-grade the food sector in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way ensuring the quality, safety and marketability of food products for income generation.
Prof Awua-Amoa, who lauded the efforts at promoting fermented food, however, cautioned that, “we need to move from uncontrolled or spontaneous fermentations to controlled fermentations and to upgrade all parts of the food value chain through technology transfer and implementation of business models”.
He said fermentation plays at least five roles in food processing and these included enrichment of the human dietary through development of a wide diversity of flavours, aromas, and textures in food.
“Fermentation also helps in preservation of substantial amounts of food through lactic acid, alcoholic, acetic acid, alkaline fermentations, and high salt fermentation,” he noted.
It enriches food with vitamins, protein, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids; as well as decrease in cooking times and fuel requirements.
In Ghana, the partner institutions in collaborative projects on indigenous African fermented foods include FRI-CSIR, the University of Development Studies, Tamale, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and University of Ghana Department of Nutrition and Food Science.
Nearly 80 per cent of West Africans consume fermented foods as part of their daily diet,, whilst fermented foods are commonly produced from local crops and could be stored unrefrigerated for longer periods than fresh foods.
They are also nutritious, generally free from foodborne pathogens and ensure the livelihood of many families.
The Green Growth project, therefore, seeks to assist SMEs to reduce cost of production, increase product profile portfolio, expand customer segmentation, increase distribution channel, and increase the revenue stream, as well as increase profit margins and profitability of local fermented food.
Arranged By: CordovoGH