Edwin Allan is a Food Scientist with a passion for developing nutritious food products with smallholder communities. In 2019-2020, Edwin partnered with Bountifield to conduct his graduate research thesis, working with women’s groups from the Kaffrine region in Senegal. He has an MS in Sustainable Food Systems from Montana State University-Bozeman and a degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Ghana.
With 70% of food consumed imported, sub-Saharan Africa remains unable to rely on its agriculture to feed its population. After completing my first degree in nutrition and food science at the University of Ghana, it became my goal to issue my home nation and the entire continent into an age of food independence and sovereignty. You might think I have delusions of grandeur, but my academic advisor and Bountifield International do not, and by working together with smallholder women farmers in Senegal, we began our journey to African food independence.
For rural farming communities, producing value-added food products creates opportunities for households to increase their incomes and improve the nutrition of their communities. In the food and agricultural industry, value-added refers to the combination of different ingredients into one product, often adding value to the item with multiply nutrients and the ability to charge a higher price-point.
Producing these products postharvest, however, requires more resource, time, and capacity than what has traditionally been available in rural areas. Providing threshers, multi-crop grinders and other labor-saving equipment has increased the ability to produce postharvest products like roasted peanuts, peanut paste, corn flour and cowpea flour by women farmers in Senegal. But even these products are limiting on the potential of what women could produce when they have equitable access to resources and training for the production of other types of products. “We want to make peanut products and export it to England, France and China,” said women farmers in Keur serigne djibel. Our mission defined, by the women farmers in the four communities in the Kaffrine region, was to develop a brand-new peanut-based snack that the women called Bonbon Bouye.
Bonbon Bouye, which translates to “Baobab delight”, is a children’s peanut nutrition bar made from mixing mainly cowpea flour, corn flour, peanut paste, baobab powder, vegetable oil and other ingredients, molding and shaping the dough and baking in an oven at 177oC for 15 minutes. Bonbon Bouye provides all nine essential amino acids, vitamin C and antioxidants from the inclusion of baobab powder and other micronutrients. In discussing problems in the community, the women defined their target population by saying “some kids don’t have good vision and also have pain in the body.” With this bar, schoolchildren can now have a nutritious snack during break to boost their immune system, concentration and energy levels for the rest of the day.
Smallholder women farmers are the main force behind postharvest processing in Senegal and produce 80% of value-added peanut products on the market. Women farmers can now go a step further after processing their harvest to make Bonbon Bouye, which is estimated to provide twice the profit from the sale of peanut paste, corn flour, or cowpea flour. Training women farmers to make Bonbon Bouye and other peanut products to be developed from further collaborations will improve the role of value-added processing in Senegal’s food production. Value-added products like Bonbon Bouye can also be exported to other countries and reduce Senegal’s dependence on imported foods, which are not always made for the nutritional benefit of consumers.
Collaborating with Bountifield International helped bridge the gap between the two research teams, the MSU Food Product Development Lab and the women farmers. Bountifield’s presence and work in the communities with women’s groups made interactions and the process of developing a peanut nutrition bar smoother. Competition from imported food products, which have lower selling prices from lower cost of packaging materials, however, presents a challenge to our Bonbon Bouye and other locally made food products.
Production of value-added products like Bonbon Bouye is definitely an important step towards industrializing rural Senegal, improving the livelihood of women farmers and their households, while also creating jobs for the younger generation. With a high sensory acceptance from schoolchildren and residents of Kaolack, the women farmers of Diamal, Ndangane, Keur serigne jjibel and Ngouye siwakh look forward to an exciting future making Bonbon Bouye.