Towards increased utilization of Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato in Rwanda food industry

Story by Kirimi Sindi  and Marie Grace Nkundabombi

In  order to increase the consumption of Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) and OFSP based products in Rwanda, the International Potato Center (CIP) in partnership with Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) organized a training for selected processors, mostly young entrepreneurs running bakery businesses in Rwanda’s urban centers. The training was held between 8th and 9th June 2017 at Muhanga district, part of Rwanda’s Southern Province.

As an initial step, participants acquired general knowledge on hygiene and sanitation in a food processing environment. Next, they were introduced to OFSP, learning about its nutritional benefits especially it’s high beta carotene content that is crucial for addressing hidden hunger (mostly vitamin A deficiency) common in sub-Saharan Africa. Based on the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS, 2014-15) only seventy four percent of children age 6-59 months consumed food rich in vitamin A in 24 hours before the survey.  Afterward, participants weighed in on use of OFSP puree (mashed) versus flour for baking.  They learnt that although OFSP flour is easy to transport and store, the processing is very expensive and often leads to loss of beta-carotene. OFSP puree on the other hand is easy to prepare, preserves the beta-carotene and gives foods a nice orange color; evidence of little or no vitamin A (beta carotene) loss.

During subsequent sessions, trainees learnt about OFSP puree preparation and combination with flour when preparing dough.  Two methods were used to mimic process scales often found in different bakeries; a puree machine and a pestle and mortar. The participants reported that both processes yielded high quality puree and the only difference was the speed and effort exerted.

“Puree is easy to make. I see that even at home someone can prepare and use it in the dough for making mandazi” said Rucamihigo Jean Claude a food processor from Gatsibo district.

After getting the puree, participants mixed various ingredients as per their desired bakery products – bread, doughnuts, queen cakes and biscuits among others. For comparison, they made two sets of products; one made with no OFSP puree incorporated and the other with OFSP puree mixed with wheat flour at the recommended levels (30%/70%; 40%/60%; 40%/60% and 45%/55% for bread, doughnuts, queen cakes and biscuits respectively).

The final part of the training entailed consumer tasting of the products.  Participants evaluated each product in terms of appearance, taste, texture and quality.

In general products with OFSP were rated better with a special mention of OFSP based cake and biscuits.

“This is beyond my expectations, usually we use three eggs in a whole bag of wheat flour (25kg) to make mandazi or bread, and then we add food color. The exciting thing here is that you can use this OFSP puree and get the same color. No need for food color” said Iyamuremye Naphtal.

Bread made from wheat flour alone (left). Bread made from wheat with OFSP puree (right), First the products were displayed on table and everyone had time to visually judge the appeal the quality of the products based on appearance. It was important to notice even the products appearances were slight different when comparing the ones made with wheat only and those made with a combination of wheat flour and OFSP puree.

By the end of the two-day training, the participants were fully equipped with knowledge on OFSP benefits and use in bakery products. It was agreed that follow-up was necessary in their bakeries to identify any gaps and to clarify any arising issues. The next step would be to link each of the bakers with OFSP root suppliers in close proximity to their business premises. When OFSP roots become available each baker was optimistic of a producing great tasting products while reducing overall costs associated with wheat and food color.

Kirimi Sindi is a Senior Scientist and CIP Country Manager – Rwanda. Marie Grace Nkundabombi is a Nutritionist based in Rwanda.