CEFTER, Nigeria Tackles Post Harvest Loss in the Sub-region through Improved Technologies
The lack of adequate capacity and technologies to protect harvest in the African sub-region have resulted in an annual post-harvest loss estimated between 35-50 percent of food produced (Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network (FANRPAN), Globally, ending poverty, increasing food and nutrition security, and promoting responsible consumption and production are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2 and 12 respectively.
Inspired by their mandate as empowered by the World Bank, Benue State University Centre for Food Technology and Research has committed significant resources in the direction of propelling intellectual contributions towards the ultimate control of post-harvest losses in west and central Africa. CEFTER is rewriting the continent’s history with its innovative research outcomes. These efforts have resulted in the production of life-changing technological innovations targeted at rural farmers to enhance the agricultural value chain and strengthen food security generally within the sub-regions.
In the area of crop farming, CEFTER has powered game-changing innovations aimed at improving soybeans cultivation and processing for optimal market efficiency such as the introduction of soya oil, and soya milk. Based on the innovative research findings from the center, the formulation of nutritional yoghurt from soybean was birthed. Subsequently, CEFTER has set up a factory for yoghurt production, contributing significantly to enhancing the livelihoods of target farming communities.
Through the centre’s Post Graduate Hub, resources have been mobilized to coordinate the design and fabrication of a thermal solar dryer for vegetables and fruit processing. This innovation provides a healthy and fast method of drying food items like yam, cassava, and potatoes, amongst other crops and others.
With intentions of commercializing the initiative, a pilot-scale consumer-based study has been carried out to enable the Centre to review notes and launch the commercial version in significant quantities. This version when completed will be used by the Center’s agricultural extension team to sensitize farmers and prepare the market to accommodate the technology in line with the expected outcomes of the project. The machine was exhibited at the National Technology Innovation Expo in Abuja in March 2021.
Cassava is a food item that is produced in large quantities across west and central Africa. In Nigeria over the years, the demand for this multi-purpose product has been far below the supply, thus leading to a significant waste of this all-important food product. To help situate efforts in this regard, Cassava Cookies, CEFTER-sponsored research by Dorcas Nguemo Kundama student, on the use of cassava flour for the production of cookies was introduced through rigorous laboratory tests. This has been subsequently approved for production in commercial quantities. Through this research, a highly nutritious cassava-based cookie has been formulated by our students. The cookies are being supplemented as part of homegrown feeding programmes for pupils under the Federal Government of Nigeria, thus yielding good revenue for the Centre.
Some other notable innovations produced by the CEFTER include: Freeze drier, Fish processing machine, Motorized groundnut shelling machine and threshers, fruit juice pasteurizer, Ohmic heating system and pulsed electric field equipment for pasteurization of milk and juice, solar driers, as well as integrated energy driers.
In strict compliance with conventional digital trends, CEFTER recently launched the e-agricultural extension network to fill in the gap and mediate between other relevant agricultural agencies whose activities directly impact rural farmers. To this end, over 300 volunteer e-extension workers were trained on various aspects of the project, connecting farmers to relevant information that would enhance agricultural practices and inspire the application of agricultural research findings.
To end the constant frustrations that rural farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural businesses face in the hands of middlemen in agro-business, CEFTER in collaboration with other partners, launched the CEFTER e-commerce Platform for small, medium, and large-scale farmers, with customers comprising of wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. The technology has the central objective of making agribusiness simple, fast, secure, and affordable. The technology has been deployed and the experiential testimonies from both farmers and consumers are heartwarming. Farmers get value for their products, waste is significantly reduced, and buyers can be easily located on the platform,
Another area of impact is the short-term courses developed by the centre. So far, about 1437 participants have benefited from these courses, stretching from national and regional communities. 65 people benefited from a regional training on Basic Food hygiene and safety was organized in 2021. Southern Cameroon is in crisis with a large majority of it’s population displaced due to drought and food scarcity. The people living in displaced communities and internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps are vulnerable to food-borne diseases and contaminations. The training created awareness among the IDPs and refugees to be able to innovatively store and process food in better hygienic conditions. The training further covered topics such as the processing of Yam and Plantain, as well as the making of Sanitizers.