The Food Research Institute (FRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has embarked on series of studies to collate the traditional practices, production and distribution of some local Ghanaian fermented foods and to improve its production processes to aid its marketability.
Among the local fermented food are Fura, popularly called “Fula” which originates from the Northern part of the country and Wagashie, also a traditional West African cottage cheese, produced by the semi-nomadic Fulani.
Some of the other fermented African foods being studied are Gari, produced from fermented cassava and opaque African beer also known as Pito.
Fura is produced from millet that is cleaned, washed and milled after which it is left to ferment, then moulded into balls and cooked for some minutes, pounded and re-moulded into smaller balls and coated with maize floor for sale and consumption.
It is usually enjoyed with milk and groundnut by both the rich and the poor in society and has become a delicacy for many people in the country.
Professor Wisdom Amoa-Awua, FRI-CSIR Ghana, Local Project Coordinator of the Green Growth Project, a Danish Technological Institute (DTI) programme, said the studies would help characterize and improve the production, safety and preservation of the selected fermented food especially, “wagashie” and fura, to aid in their wider promotion and consumption on both the local and international market.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop in Accra, Prof Amoa-Awua said the FRI was carrying out the studies that fall under the Green Growth Project, which aims at “Preserving African Microorganisms for Green Growth to improve the hygienic quality and shelf life of fermented food in three African countries, namely Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso.
The stakeholders were briefed on the project and with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to help them to develop business models in a way that could commercialise the fermented products.
Fermented foods are food substrates that are invaded or overgrown by edible microorganisms, whose enzymes, particularly amylases, proteases and lipases, hydrolyze the polysaccharides, proteins and lipids to nontoxic products with flavours, aromas, and textures pleasant and attractive to the human consumer.
Prof Amoa-Awua explained that the on-going studies sought to isolate, characterize and identify the dominant lactic acid bacteria and yeasts involved in the fermentation of millet into Fura and to determine the technological properties of the dominant lactic acid bacteria and yeasts involved in the fermentation of Fura.
He said the project also involved the training of SMEs on business models developed for the partners’ products as well as assisting the SMEs to reduce cost of production, increase product profile portfolio, expand customer segmentation, increase distribution channel, increase the revenue stream, as well as increase profit margins and profitability.
Mr Moses Mengu, Local coordinator of the International Centre of Danish Technological Institute (DTI), said the Project that started in January 2014 would end in December 2018, and that, the aim of the project was to enable the West African partners to be able to preserve and fully utilize natural microbial resources that the countries have in their fermented food.
He said those that had been identified so far would be transferred to some SMEs to be able to produce these fermented African food.
Mr Mengu, who is also a Deputy Project Director of DTI, said the project was being implemented in five work packages and that most of the packages had been covered.
He said through the project, there had been a value chain analysis of most of the African local fermented foods in all the three countries that were involved.
He indicated that biobanks have been established to store the food starter cultures, which would help SMEs to use them for commercial purposes.
Professor Mercy Obodai, Director of FRI-CSIR, whose speech was read on her behalf, noted that, the ongoing project, especially that of Fura, would inevitably reduce postharvest loses of millet and help accrue financial benefits to processors and ultimately nutritional benefits to the consumers.
Under the Green Growth project,, being undertaken in Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso by the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), local African export food chain were being developed to be promoted on the international market while food safety for Fura, Pito, Gari and Wagashie were being improved to help increase their demand.
The value addition for local raw materials is also being ensured.