17 Mar 2022

Training kit for developing innovative food products and processes in Sub-Saharan countries | Daniel Alpízar

Written by Daniel Alpízar

Food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa are transforming rapidly due to increased urbanization as well as economic and population growth. These trends cause distress in food systems and present challenges for making food systems more sustainable and equitable. Such challenges include an increase in demand for more affordable and nutritious food as well as the need to increase income of vulnerable actors in the supply chains and to reduce the triple burden of malnutrition in rural and urban areas. Innovative food products and business models that are sustainable, inclusive and targeting nutritious aspects are imperative to overcome these challenges.

A training kit (T-Kit) was elaborated as part of the HealthyFoodAfrica project to increase the capacity of food system actors to innovate and promote sustainable innovative products and business models. The overarching project goal is to make food systems in 10 African cities in six countries across three African macro-regions more sustainable, equitable and resilient by reconnecting food production and food consumption in effective ways. The objectives of the T-Kit developed in the project are as follows:

1) to illustrate the potential of innovative, nutritious, and locally based products,

2) to identify methodological skills for assessment and strategy development, and

3) to enhance capacity of actors to develop food innovations.

The T-Kit will be employed as a tool in future summer schools in Ghana and Kenya – the first one to be held on 4-8 July 2022. The tool will help to identify product innovations and provide technical information on how to facilitate their reproducibility. It can be used by anyone interested in a specific topic or in food innovations more generally.

The four key themes of the T-Kit are related to:

  • Sustainability
    • Global aspects of sustainability
    • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Sustainability of Food Systems
    • Food Security and Nutrition dimensions
    • Food System framework with its dimensions and implications
    • Food security assessment
  • Life cycle thinking for sustainable products
    • Life cycle assessment for sustainable products
  • Innovation of business models
    • Business models for innovations
    • Sustainable packaging and food safety for processing innovative products
    • Technical training to create food innovations

Building on academic literature, case studies, illustrations, videos and recipes of novel food products, the T-Kit is intended to:

  • boost knowledge on sustainability and ways to assess it with technical tools such as life cycle assessment,
  • foster the understanding of food system dynamics based on the drivers, supply chains, consumer behavior, and diets that are related to food security and nutrition. The T-kit is also meant to support the assessment of food security and nutrition through indicators,
  • and build the capacity of food system actors to design new and sustainable business models for innovative products. It also includes training on development of an actual innovative product.

This tool is meant to be an open source handbook for different kinds of vocational education and training providers and designed to suit trainees of different educational levels in the sub-Saharan context – mainly addressing local producers and entrepreneurs, but also future stakeholders of local food systems (e.g. school and university students).

The T-Kit was elaborated through the collaborative work of project partners from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ghana; Böna Factory, Kenya, the University of Pisa (UNPI), Italy; The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Montpellier (CIHEAM-IAMM), France; and Luke Research Institute (LUKE) and the University of Helsinki (UH), Finland. This work was supported via feedback rounds by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (Bioversity), Northern Region Farmers Association (NRFA), Mentes Visíveis (MV) as well as the representatives of the HealthyFoodAfrica food system labs (FSL) in Accra (Ghana), Kisumu (Kenya), and Tamale (Ghana).

Updated information about upcoming summer schools in 2022 as well as more materials and videos will be provided soon through the HealthyFoodAfrica project website, stay tuned!

* This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862740.