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Call for applications: Managing food safety and quality in small-scale food processing for RTB value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa

Food safety concerns are a growing focus in Africa, as elsewhere in the world. Food borne illnesses are a preventable and under-reported public health problem. These illnesses are a burden on public health and contribute significantly to the cost of health care. They also present a major challenge to certain groups of people. There are a number of food safety concerns during processing. Food safety is one of the most important aspects for processing plants around the nation. Each year, facilities try to prevent any food illness outbreaks or bacterial contamination by following the strictest sanitary regulations, but sometimes facilities lack awareness of the simplest safety measures. The lack of awareness is greater in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) and especially among traditional crops such as sweet potato, cassava and bananas that were not traditional considered for commercialization. 

Research on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is collaboratively done by five CGIAR centers: International Potato Center (CIP), Biodiversity International, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (Cirad) working on roots, tuber and bananas (RTB).  A large population of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) depend on RTB crops (cassava, potatoes, sweetpotato, yams, bananas and plantains) for food and generation of income.  RTB crops provide 14% to 60% of the daily per capita calories consumed by millions of people living in the least developed countries. The research work by the five centers aims at benefiting small-scale farmers and food processors, consumers and anyone else along the value chain. The CGIAR centers have strategized on promoting postharvest technologies, value chains and market opportunities as one of their major research themes on RTB. There are considerable efforts to increase the economic value of RTB through value addition. Value added food products from RTB i.e. the Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) bread, have been shown to more nutritious and acceptable to consumers as compared to their product substitutes.  Transfer and adoption of food processing technology for RTBs has been effected through seminars, workshops, trainings and demonstrations in SSA. 

Commercialization of RTB products has been beneficial to several clienteles along the food chain: farmers who get ready markets for their produce hence increasing their household income; food processors utilizing the availability of ready and cheap RTB as raw materials/food ingredient consequently lowering production costs and increasing profit margins; and consumers who are offered with wide choices of affordable and nutritious food products.

The Challenge

Currently, commercial processing of RTB products in SSA is done by private companies on a small-scale basis. Small-scale food business enterprises are however faced with practical challenges of developing, implementing and maintaining food safety programs. This is attributed to lack of qualified personnel with skills, experience and technical expertise in food safety, lack of in-house microbial risk evaluation, lack of training, lack of or insufficient funds for providing food safety resources and lack of commitment to embrace food safety by food handlers. Due to these factors, the hygienic status of these facilities is generally low and pose a huge public health risk to consumers. It is necessary to address food safety challenges faced by small scale businesses involved in value addition of RTBs by designing an informative food safety training workshop scheduled for 4-8 December 2017.

Why Train Small-Scale Processors of RTBs on Food Safety?

Food safety scares are issues of great concern in SSA. Low compliance to Good Manufacturing and Good Hygiene Practices by small scale food processors often lead to food contamination that could result to cases of foodborne disease outbreaks and deterioration in food quality. Contamination in food processing is attributed to poor personnel hygiene, lack of or ineffective cleaning and sanitation of equipment and food preparation surfaces, use of contaminated raw materials and generally contaminated food processing environment. It is therefore mandatory for small-scale processors of RTBs to implement and adhere to appropriate hygienic practices during processing, storage and distribution of their food products. Training in food safety has been shown to have a positive impact on knowledge, behavior and practices of food handlers as well improving product quality. It is therefore important to conduct a food safety training to create food safety awareness to small-scale processors of RTBs in SSA faced by challenges in upholding food safety regulations. 

Training Objectives

The objective of the training workshop is to enhance compliance to food safety regulations by small scale enterprises involved in RTB processing in SSA. The skills and knowledge gained from the training will be important in addressing food safety challenges that arise from lack of compliance to good Hygiene and Manufacturing Practices. 

Target Group

The training workshop mainly targets RTB value chain actors in SSA from private sector, government and academia. 

Training Approach/Method

The training sessions will involve power-point presentations, video presentation, pictorial and hands-on demonstrations on food safety. The training will cover food safety topics on personal hygiene, hand washing hygiene, food processing environmental hygiene, food contamination, foodborne illnesses, cleaning and sanitation, pest control and waste management. A participatory approach will be applied with each particpants developing a food safety plan or strategy for their establishment or project which will be evaluated and shared with other partipants. Evaluation using a food safety questionnaire will be done prior to and after the training. Successful participants will be issued a Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate from the Natural Resources Insitute (NRI) at Greenwich University, UK.

Expected outputs / outcomes

  • Improved knowledge, practices and behavior on food handling by food handlers. Food handlers will apply gained knowledge and skills from the training in their day to day food processing and handling operations without violating food safety practices.
  • Identification of food safety risky areas in processing of different RTB products and provide miti-gate measures for improving food safety and quality of processed products.
  • Sharing of food safety and food process technology ideas among participants through new connections and networks.
  • At least 30 RTB value chain actors in SSA trained.

Applicant eligibility / requirements

  • The training workshop targets processors working with RTBs, researchers involved in RTB value addition, government and NGO professionals working on food safety issues.
  • Applicants must have basic knowledge in biology, food science and nutrition.
  • Applicants must be proficient in both written and spoken English.
  • Women researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.
  • There are few fully-funded slots on highly competitive basis. Applicants able to secure their own sponsorship to meet full or part of the course costs are highly encouraged to apply. The full course cost is approximately USD1500 (exclusive of travel costs).

Application timelines and process

Workshop venue

The training workshop will be held at the BecA-ILRI Hub and CIP, both located within the ILRI Campus, Nairobi, Kenya. 

For more information about the BecA-ILRI Hub and CIP, please visit: and respectively.

About Tawanda Muzhingi

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