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Jean Pankuku inside her bakery and bread store in Blantyre, Malawi. Photo credit V. Atakos (CIP-SSA)

After six years of helping others add value to their businesses, Malawian food technologist Jean Pankuku was so convinced of the nutritional merits and commercial prospects of orange-fleshed-sweetpotato (OFSP) breads and other baked products that she opened her own business – the Tehilah Bakery and Value Addition Centre. It’s hardly a surprise that the Chicago-based Institute of Food Technologists recognized her achievements and future potential in 2017 by bestowing on her its coveted Emerging Leaders Network award.

The Tehilah Bakery and Value Addition Centre, located 20 kilometers from Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre, focuses on commercializing nutritious and healthy foods using locally grown crops. Jean founded it after years of helping other Malawian businesses develop commercial products based on a range of crops.

The bakery produces and sells innovative foods based on root and tuber crops. It was therefore only natural that Jean partner with the International Potato Center (CIP), which is implementing a five-year project called Root and Tuber Crops for Agricultural Transformation (RTC-ACTION) in Malawi. Funded by Irish Aid, RTC-ACTION is implemented by CIP and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, in collaboration with local partners.

RTC-ACTION works with the private sector to enhance value addition in cassava, potato, and sweetpotato market chains. CIP acts as the initial link, connecting farmers and local businesses that can buy their surplus production and transform it into nutritious foods. CIP’s partnership with Tehilah Bakery aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who produce cassava, potato, and OFSP, many of whom face major challenges in marketing their crops.

Processing of sweetpotato into puree at Tehilah Bakery. Photo credit V. Atakos (CIP-SSA)

“I established a partnership with CIP focused on perfecting various products made from OFSP, as well as promoting them in urban markets. When new varieties are released, I assess them to determine their suitability for products such as puree, crisps among others,” said Jean. So far, her favourite OFSP varieties for processing are Kadyaubwerere and Chipika, both bred and released by Malawi’s Department of Agricultural Research Services in collaboration with CIP.

Officially registered in March 2017, Tehilah began by conducting taste tests in various forums, including training sessions of CIP partners. Tehilah’s OFSP-based products were highly rated by the tasters, who were impressed by the fact that the bread is also a good source of vitamin A. CIP then supported the bakery in getting its products certified by the Malawi Bureau of Standards, in August 2018. This cleared the way for the OFSP bread and buns – the first of their kind in Malawi – to be sold to consumers
Read the full story on the RTB blog

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