Innovative products help reduce post-harvest losses in fruit and vegetable production in Uganda

Perishability plays an important role in the commercialization of fruits and vegetables in Sub-Saharan Africa, posing risks to all involved. To address this challenge, researchers at Makarere University, Uganda, together with farmer groups, developed a range of innovative products that help reduce losses and generate additional income for small-scale actors.

One example is pineapple wine: It taps the potential from utilizing pineapples that are typically lower-quality graded and sold at low prices on fresh markets. Transforming such fruits, including flesh and peels, into high-end products, reduces losses and satisfies the demand of a growing local middle-class. Another example is banana ketchup: The ‘Fia’-type banana is usually only consumed green in Uganda. Once ripened, fruits rapidly lose market value. As a novelty, such fruits were integrated into tomato ketchup to substitute refined sugar and add nutritional benefits. Beyond the additional value from pineapple wine and banana ketchup, the residues and by-products from processing can be further used as animal fodder, manure or for biogas production.
Aesthetic preferences additionally influence the level of losses along value chains of perishables. For example, when marketing fresh mushrooms in Uganda, small pieces are cut off, so that the product looks more appealing to customers. While still fit for human consumption, the remains are normally disposed. To reduce such losses and re-integrate them into the food system, a special beverage was developed. The residues are dried, processed into powder and then mixed with other ingredients to form an aromatic, refreshing and healthy beverage with prolonged shelf-life.
New products developed by students at Makerere University are currently marketed through public events, for example in communities, schools and public hospitals. In the near future, there are plans to hire a stall in a vegetable market of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, and negotiations are ongoing with some supermarkets. A group of MSc students, who were involved in the product development, are planning to found a spin-off business for marketing the new products in cooperation with farmer groups.