Date of release: Monday, May 14, 2012

A2237-Gratitude-A-helping-hand-for-the-worlds-poorExperts at the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute are heading up a food technology project to help millions of people in some of the world’s poorest regions.

Over the next three years, they are going to find ways of reducing waste during the production of food crops vital to families in parts of Africa and Asia. They will also develop new products such as snack foods from the crops, and seek new markets, by working closely with 15 local and international companies, research agencies and other organisations.

Gratitude, or Gain from Losses of Roots and Tuber Crops, is the name given to the 3.75 million euros (£3 million) project, largely funded by the European Commission, which is being led by the Natural Resources Institute at Chatham Maritime.

The production of yam and cassava, two essential crops which form part of the staple diet for some 700 million people in poor areas worldwide, is at the heart of the project, which will start with pilot schemes to reduce waste in Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam and Thailand.

At present 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 project team believes it can reduce these losses by up to half by introducing better storage and processing techniques to reduce waste and turn it into something of value.

They maintain that waste materials left over during processing can be used to produce other higher value foods, for example, to grow mushrooms or make snack foods.

Three or more ‘best bet’ products will be chosen for introduction elsewhere, and successes will be shared with other parts of the globe via digital links.

It is hoped that the project will support small and medium scale enterprises, link to large-scale industry and create new jobs and training packages.

Project co-ordinator Keith Tomlins, Reader in Food Safety and Quality at the Natural Resources Institute, says: “This is an ambitious scheme that could have a huge effect on many millions of people. It is a good example of how the Natural Resources Institute’s expertise and experience of meeting people’s basic needs can be combined with sound research and business flair to make a big difference.”

For more information on the Gratitude Project, go to www.fp7-gratitude.eu 

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Women peeling cassava in Ondo district, Nigeria. Photograph by Lora Forsythe.