A case for promoting local small scale food processing enterprises
Every community has some level of knowledge on food processing and value addition going back many generations. Age-old local value addition practices includes processing milk into amasi, vegetable drying, drying cooked maize and pumpkins and storing this for later use as well as brewing a wide range of beers or beverages from a collections of crops and wild fruits. These practices have proved that local small scale processing is critical for meeting specific local tastes and demand. If fully embraced in the modern world, local food processing does not only create employment but also reduces manufacturing costs since raw materials will not have to travel long distances to urban areas for processing.
Graphs below show a range of commodities supplied to Mbare wholesale market during the month of August 2015. The commodities travelled long distances to Harare yet they could have been processed at source, providing market options for farmers. While the commodities seem to have generated significant income in Harare, they could have earned more if value addition at source had been done.
Graph 1: produce supplied to Mbare wholesale market in tons (August 2015)
Graph2: Estimated revenue by produce type (August 2015)
Chart 1: Estimate Revenue share district (source)
All the 19 sources of produce indicated in the above chart should have small scale processing centres where commodities are processed into diverse products rather than taking everything to Harare. The absence of processing centres in these areas affect women farmers who face enormous challenges when travelling long distances to market their commodities. Some of the challenges faced by women around marketing include lack of accommodation and proper ablution services at the market.
Food processing as an extension of local knowledge systems
Processing and preservation at community level ensures income all-year round. There are places where mangoes are sometimes more than the community can handle yet such communities become food insecure a greater part of the year. Different communities have different crop varieties and wild fruits adaptable to their environment – e.g. bananas, butternuts, mangoes, masawu, baobab fruit, etc. Local people can be good judges for their products in terms of quality and taste. They can tell when beer has reached the required quality in terms of taste, freshness, etc. They are the first port of call of demand for their products before they supply other communities.
Farmers have been roasting groundnuts and brewing beer and perfecting taste for many years. What is needed is technology that can transform this indigenous knowledge into proper industrial knowledge the way bread baking has been transformed from family businesses to industries. Such a process has to happen slowly building on indigenous knowledge gathered over time. It can’t just be fast-tracked. A lot can be learnt from the evolution of certain local technologies and practices but unfortunately most of them have not been documented.
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