Spontaneously fermented foods (i.e. food produced by the activity of microorganisms) are central to the West African diet. The preservation of the microbial biodiversity is therefore a crucial step towards food security. In addition to preserving this microbial biodiversity, this project, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), contributed to the reduction of poverty, the development of local businesses and the implementation of green growth strategies by teaching new skills. Five WAITRO-members participated in this project: Copenhagen University (Denmark), University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin), CSIR (Ghana), the Department of Food Technology (Burkina Faso) and DTI (Denmark).
The project was divided into six work packages:
- Value Chain analyses and contextual framing
- Establishment of biobanks and methodologies for preservation of microbiological cultures
- Optimization of microbial cultures, fermentations and processing parameters
- Implementation of starter cultures at SMEs
- New business opportunities for production and commercialization of fermented food
- Management, dissemination, uptake of project results and IPR issues
The value chain analyses revealed that within the selected food value chains, the traditional food production sector was a source for sustainable growth. Significant outcomes of this project were improvement of processing methods by using starter cultures, upgrading of the food value chain and establishment of new business models.
The biobanks represent the first scientific infrastructure for preserving microbial biodiversity of West African fermented foods. Biobanks for microbial cultures isolated from fermented products were established in participating African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana. In order to ensure long-term sustainability, the three biobanks have been inter-linked through cooperation agreements for duplicate storage. The project is a continuation of the WAITRO Capacity Building program for Research and Development on African traditional foods, which started in the early 1990’s with funding support from DANIDA and the EU.