Enhancing food security in Namibia through value-added products
CSIR Bio/Chemtek has recently been involved in food trials in Namibia through its Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Employment Creation to develop value-added products from mahangu (pearl millet), Namibia’s staple food. The purpose of the project, funded by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was to enhance food security in Namibia and generate rural income by providing additional markets and products for small-scale farmers and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
The CSIR team, comprising food scientists Sebolelo Moleko-Pitso, Lizette Kuyper and Corinda Erasmus, was requested to develop ten products using extrusion technology, drum drying and alkaline cooking technology to add value to mahangu. Moleko-Pitso explained that extrusion is a food-processing technique during which food attains different shapes by being pushed through rotating screws and ultimately forced through meticulously designed dies. This process is used in several snack foods, breakfast cereals, pasta and some pet food, giving these their characteristic shapes. The extruder accepts relatively dry material, adds water to transform the raw material, gelatinises starch, denatures proteins and inactivates enzymes.
The new foods that were produced included pre-gelatinised mahangu flour suitable for instant porridges, drinks and baby food; extruded snacks that are puffed and crispy; and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals such as mahangu crisps or muesli. The inclusion of legumes such as cowpeas in the extruded and drum-dried form for instant porridges was required to increase the protein content of the product. The instant millet “rice” produced from mahangu was also found to be very successful.
Ten products with the most potential were selected from initial trials. The selection was made based on ease and cost of processing, the taste profile of the product as evaluated by a small taste panel, and product stability such as rancidity and other shelf-life parameters. The selected products were packaged in sufficient quantities to be used for consumer tests in Namibia. “In the taste panel tests,” said Moleko-Pitso, ”it was clear that the geographic area made a significant difference in the choice of products, as the Windhoek panel primarily chose all the extruded puffed products, while in the Ondangwa panel, porridges were equally preferred to the extruded products.” The products that proved to be the most popular were the barbeque snacks, strawberry-flavoured cereal, drumdried mahangu porridge and cowpea and mahangu porridge, as well as mahangu rice.
Once the project has been concluded, the CSIR will provide technical details on the formulation and manufacture of these products, so they can be produced by an interested enterprise equipped with appropriate equipment. Commercialisation of these products should lead to job creation and boost incomes in rural areas.
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