In 2019, Edwin Allan, a Master of Sustainable Food Systems candidate at Montana State University Bozeman (MSU), partnered with his professor Dr. Wan-Yuan Kuo and her team at the MSU Food Product Development Lab and Bountifield International to address an important and pressing problem close to his heart: food security and nutrition in Africa. Edwin is from Ghana and knows firsthand the challenges facing Indigenous communities. The agricultural landscape in Ghana has many similarities to Senegal, including the importance of peanuts and other legumes, cereals, roots, and tubers. Smallholder women farmers are the main force behind postharvest processing in Senegal and produce 80% of value-added peanut products on the market. However, between 10 and 50% of food produced is lost between harvest and consumption due to gender inequalities in access to technology, among other factors.
As a part of his graduate research, Edwin worked with women’s groups from the Kaffrine region in Senegal, an area that produces peanuts and millet, to develop a peanut nutrition bar incorporating locally
Since 2014, Bountifield has been providing Senegalese women with multi-crop grinders and other technology for making products such as infant formula, nutritious porridge, flours and other snacks with ingredients like roasted peanuts, baobab, moringa, corn, and cowpea. Dr. Kuo and Edwin Allan used Bountifield’s grinder in the early phases of the project to help women develop a prototype product for a shelf-stable nutritious snack bar called “Bonbon Bouye,” which means “Baobab delight.” Bonbon Bouye provides all nine essential amino acids, vitamin C and antioxidants from the inclusion of baobab powder, cowpea, and other micronutrients. Children that attend public schools in low socioeconomic status areas can benefit from this nutrient dense snack that satisfies hunger and helps them focus.
After two years of research and support from MSU and Bountifield, Bonbon Bouye bars continue to be produced by women’s groups in Senegal. In 2020, Edwin and his team placed first in the Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The results of a pilot trial and market survey tests in Senegal are encouraging. In a recent interview, Edwin states that “the greatest achievement since the start of project is the women being able to replicate and produce the bars in Senegal, and they are excited about taking this co-created product with them.”
Though the pandemic has created delays, it has not deterred Edwin, Dr. Kuo, and the team at MSU, now including Olivia Schwintek, Ed Shaw, Hannah Kempf, and Dominic Pisaneschi. Through continued collaboration with Bountifield’s former Chief of Party, Aliou Ndiaye, now Director of Umbrella Support Unit, over 1,000 bars have been tested in the market and sold. A new factory for processing the bars is slated for construction with funding from the African Development Bank. The factory, designed by a MSU team of chemical engineering students led by Dr. Paul Gannon, will be operated by the women of Kaffrine, Senegal – locally based and designed to include daycare and classrooms for the children. The factory will be a new source of electricity for the area, and it will also create new jobs and market opportunities. Through Bountifield’s earlier collaboration with the Kaolack Chamber of Commerce, the women now have the means to sell their products through different networks within the country to provide school children with nutritious snacks. Dr. Kuo also received the New Innovator Award from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture to further the entrepreneurship with Indigenous fermentation innovations.
As Director of the MSU Food Product Development Lab, Dr. Kuo could not be prouder of the results that have been achieved. She explains “This project utilizes knowledge of the local community on how they grow and harvest crops, which inspired Edwin and his team’s design of the project. Using raw ingredients from the local scene varies from what is generally produced out of a food lab. Immersing ourselves in this way can inform Western food scientists how to facilitate and build on traditional knowledge.” Reestablishing awareness of traditional foods and the connection to native lands is a continual effort and emphasis of this project.
A food co-op in Montana is also planning to manufacture and distribute the bars in the United States, returning part of the revenue to support the Senegalese women farmers. The co-op is especially interested in this product because it incorporates traditional knowledge and locally grown crops, which are important to their food system and many others in the Americas. This is also a key focus of MSU’s sustainable food systems program.
Bountifield’s CEO, Alexandra Spieldoch says, “We are also so proud of our collaboration with the MSU Food Product Development Lab, and Edwin and his team’s success and the greater MSU community. This project has made a difference in improving food security and sustainable development in Africa.”
This research was funded by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FF-NIA21-0000000070). The content of this publication is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR).