Like our own yoghurt, wine, and beer, Zambia has numerous local fermented foods. Many are consumed on a daily basis by large parts of the population. Fermented food products have significant added value compared to unfermented food products due to higher nutritional value, longer shelf life and better taste and are produced locally according to ancient traditions, using microbial activity. Producers are almost exclusively women, who sell the products at local markets generating a livelihood for themselves and their families.
Very little is known about properties of Zambian fermented products and the potential of these products to promote development is currently neglected. To stimulate development of the products, this project will study the key elements of the food value chains of these products.
Traditional fermented products
We will establish consumer preference and requirements and how taste, nutritional value, food stability and food safety of the products are affected by production procedures, fermentation processes and the ecology of the populations of micro-organisms responsible for the fermentation. The project further includes fundamental research on the microbial ecology and evolution that determine product properties. Here, traditional fermented products will serve as a model system to experimentally study eco-system evolution.
The project is an expansion of a present Marie Curie project of Sijmen Schoustra (Laboratory of Genetics, Plant Sciences Group, Wageningen UR). With this NWO-WOTRO grant, we will now expand with three PhD students in a collaboration within Wageningen UR with colleagues from Food Quality and Design and Food Microbiology (Anita Linnemann and Eddy Smid) as well as with other partners in the Netherlands (CSK Food Enrichment and Yoba-for-Life) and in Zambia (University of Zambia, Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Heifer International).