Scientists from Britain and Nigeria will collaborate on new research to help African farmers turn traditional produce such as grains, cereals, root and tubers into new product lines with longer shelf-life and greater nutritional value.
The University of Lincoln, UK, will offer its expertise and academic resources working alongside Temophadis International Enterprise (TIE) on a new agri-food Knowledge Transfer Partnership, with additional expertise from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Osun State, Nigeria.
Fully funded by Innovate UK through the Global Challenges Research Fund, the University of Lincoln and TIE will develop and implement new processing techniques to create commercially viable, value-added products with enhanced nutritional quality.
The partnership aims to increase food security and reduce food losses through improved supply of foods via e-platforms, and by building the capacity of Agri-food vendors in the country.
The Nigerian food market is the largest in Africa, with more than 180 million people to feed, a figure projected to increase significantly by 2030. The growing health concern for food safety and related activities, exacerbated by Covid-19, has made consumers shift attention to branded packaged food, providing TIE with an opportunity to innovate and capitalise on demand.
Olarewaju Fadodun, Project Lead for TIE, said: “In context of rising food prices, fallout from Covid-19 and various effects of climate on food availability, Africa, and particularly Nigeria, needs a more efficient way of transforming what is produced into handy food products with extended shelf lives.
“We hope this has the potential to save the lives of millions of Africans who rely on a range of indigenous crops for food, nutrition and income security. The KTP will build up our capability and that of other Agri-food vendors in post-harvest value addition, and ultimately reduce the post-harvest food loss in Nigeria by 50%.”
Professor Mark Swainson, Lead for Higher Education and Research from the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing, said: “Through a close working relationship between all three parties, the initiative will serve to enhance the levels of nutritious food supply in Nigeria, with significant benefits to food security, waste reduction and uptake of bio-degradable packaging materials. We are very proud to be advancing our work with food systems on an international scale with our Nigerian colleagues.”
Dr Oluseyi Moses Ajayi, supervising academic at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, said: “Over the past 40 years, UK KTPs have helped businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through optimal use of knowledge, technology and skills. I am pleased with the global extension of the scheme to businesses and universities in Africa.”
Supervising academic for Obafemi Awolowo University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Dr Ayodeji Ogunleye, said: “Agri-food businesses in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, have primarily been left in the hands of smallholder processors who operate in the open market with little or no consideration for quality control and safety.
“Working with the University of Lincoln will be a game-changer. They are one of the leading UK universities in Agri-food research and innovation and will help us to bring global quality standards and excellent Agri-food processing practices to Nigeria. I am very pleased to be leading the Obafemi Awolowo University team on this international collaboration.”