The Innofood Africa Project Comes to a Close!

The curtains have closed on the Innofood Africa Project, a groundbreaking initiative funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programming which was implemented by 18 partners in Africa and Europe. In Africa, the partners consisted of universities, civil societies, Non-governmental Organizations, and Private sector institutions that were based in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and Ethiopia. In Europe, partners consisted of universities and private companies that were based in Finland, Belgium, France, and Norway.

The project sought to research nutritional gaps using indigenous African crops. In Kenya, the focus was on Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), finger millet, cowpea, and Amaranth. Africa Harvest led the charge on OFSP in Busia County and finger millet in the Chuka area of Tharaka Nithi County, while Chuka University, who was among the consortium partners, spearheaded cowpea and Amaranth. The aim was to enhance the productivity and commercial viability of those crops to address the issue of food security within the implementing countries and create an export market for the innovative products that came out of the four crops.

Nehemiah Mburu (Taylor), Programs Lead at Africa Harvest, attended the consortium closing meeting in Helsinki, Finland from the 8 th to 11 th of January 2024. “This is a project that started amidst a pandemic so we rarely held physical meetings. Throughout the project, we only met twice including the final meeting. I was delighted to see the rest of the consortium members again and deliberate on the project’s achievements.” Taylor said.

The Project, commencing in August 2020 and concluding in January 2024, adeptly managed the challenges posed by the pandemic and subsequently extended its duration. Taylor elaborated, “Originally we had planned for a 36-month duration, but we sought an additional 6 months due to the pandemic, resulting in a total duration of 42 months.”

Taylor mentioned that the project worked with eight different packages, each tackling a different component. Africa Harvest played a key role in work package three which focused on farming systems and the plan was to increase production at the farmer level by enhancing seed systems and ensuring commercialization of the selected crops. Taylor emphasized, “At Africa Harvest, we engaged in farmer participatory research, collaborating closely with groups of farmers. Our approach involved guiding them through every stage of the entire production cycle.”

Despite working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor was proud of the fact Africa Harvest delivered beyond expectations by developing 13 business plans against eight that were initially anticipated. The business plans which he says adopted the business canvas model, looked at various things that a business needs to do to thrive. He stated, “We began uncovering previously unexplored markets for the crops under our purview, including potential export opportunities to regions such as Europe. For instance, we discovered that Cowpea flour could serve as a protein substitute for meat, catering to the growing vegan population in Europe.”

Isaiah Matinyi, a 33-year-old OFSP farmer from Busia County was one of the farmers who directly benefited from the project. His journey into OFSP farming was made possible through his involvement with Africa Harvest through the Innofood Africa Project. He was equipped with a comprehensive understanding of OFSP cultivation, covering essential aspects such as best agronomic practices, post- harvest handling techniques, and effective pest and disease management.

“Initially, we faced difficulties in sourcing OFSP seeds. Thanks to Africa Harvest’s guidance on constructing net tunnels and subsequently expanding seed production, we no longer encounter see shortages. Now, there is a growing interest among people to engage in OFSP farming, as they have seen significant profits it can yield.” Charles said.

Another significant outcome of the project was the establishment of an innovation platform to centralize all project-related work. This platform will remain accessible beyond the project’s conclusion serving as a valuable source of information and research for interested stakeholders. As the project concludes, its legacy remains, shaping the future of agriculture in Africa and beyond.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.