Private and public sector organisations from Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK came together at the Natural Resources Institute, in Kent UK last month to launch the new European Union Framework 7 funded project 'Gratitude' (Gains from Losses of Roots and Tuber Crops), and to begin the planning phase.
Cassava and yam are increasingly vital to farmers in much of the developing world, in the face of current climatic change. They are important food security crops for more than 700 million people and also provide major sources of income through direct sales and processing. However, post-harvest losses from these crops can be exceptionally high: up to 30% for cassava and 60% for yam.
Tackling a hitherto under-researched topic, 'Gratitude' aims to help small-holder farmers and small-medium enterprises to find and disseminate solutions that will reduce waste from postharvest losses of root and tuber crops and turn typically discarded by-products into something of increased value. By addressing food security, creating demand for root and tuber crops and improving efficiency at all stages along the value chain; this unique and innovative project will greatly improve the livelihoods of people with low incomes.
Led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, 'Gratitude' began this year with a project value of €3.75m, the majority from the EU Framework 7.
During the launch, which took place in the Historic Dockyard of Chatham in the vicinity of the WW2 battleship HMS Cavalier, presentations were given from the leaders of each research area. Project participants gained a clearer understanding of each of the project's research objectives and how they all interact. The importance of monitoring and evaluation, and gender, were well demonstrated, and communications within the project were discussed.
The research areas that are the focus of the project cover the assessment and management of value chains, the development of alternative and new markets, reducing postharvest losses of fresh produce, adding value to waste products, food safety and quality, and demonstrating technologies with beneficiaries. Some areas are cross cutting, for example: dissemination and support to replication, and management, monitoring and evaluation. The project will also encourage increased collaboration between southern partners.