’Hidden hunger’ despite fruit and vegetable surplus

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FruVaSe guava product at Nairobi Innovation Week in April 2022 Photo: private
FruVaSe guava product at Nairobi Innovation Week in April 2022 Photo: private
Preserved local fruits and vegetables can improve nutrition in East Africa

In East Africa, up to 50 percent of cultivated fruits and vegetables cannot be used, partly because they spoil too quickly before or after harvest. At the same time, the population suffers from micronutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger, which could be alleviated by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. The international research project -Fruits and Vegetables for all Seasons- (FruVaSe), led by the University of Göttingen, has investigated whether local and hitherto little-studied fruits and vegetables can be processed and preserved so that a greater proportion of the harvest is available as food. They are also identifying ways in which processing residues can be used. The project team is presenting the results and the products developed in the magazine Ernährung im Fokus, among other publications.

Local fruit, for example guavas in Kenya, sometimes rots under the trees during the season, while guava juice is produced in the country from imported fruit. Here, one goal of the FruVaSe project was to produce durable and nutrient-rich products that can also contribute to a balanced diet out of season. Thus, a guava nectar enriched with moringa leaves and an instant eye bean leaf soup were developed in Kenya. In addition, the researchers modeled the contribution of various fruit and vegetable products from the dietary palette of women and children in Tanzania and showed that the new products can fill gaps in nutrient supply and even reduce the cost of food in some cases.

The team also identified consumer demand and use of processing residues for animal feed and for biogas and biochar production. As a contribution to a sustainable life cycle approach, the researchers were able to demonstrate that residues from the processing of jackfruit in Uganda can be used to produce biochar, which in turn can be used as fertilizer in vegetable production. The project results are now available as manuals, leaflets and posters in local communities.

-In addition to promoting processing technologies, especially in rural areas, recommendations on nutritious processed fruits and vegetables should be included in national nutrition guidelines and programs-, says project coordinator Dr. Gudrun Keding, from the Department of Crop Sciences at Göttingen University. In the FruVaSe project, scientists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt and the University of Göttingen worked together. It was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Original publication: Keding G.B., Tepe, J., Lemken, D., Alves, L., Wydra, K.D., Pawelzik, E. (2023): Processing techniques for surplus fruits and vegetables in East Africa. Nutrition in Focus 01/2023. pp.75-79, https://www.bzfe.de/­fileadmin/­user_upload/­5382_2023_eif_x009.pdf