Poverty and malnutrition in Uganda
Uganda is among the world’s poorest countries. Besides poverty, the situation is complicated by a significant influx of refugees and deforestation due to the increasing need for agricultural land and food to combat malnutrition. Agriculture is an important sector the economy, and around 60 percent of the Ugandan population works in farming.
A lack of technical resources (mechanisation, processing, packaging, storage etc.) leads to immense post-harvest and transport losses. Food security is at risk; there is inadequate technical know how and opportunities to process the raw materials on the ground. In order to safeguard long-term food security and to enable Uganda to become self-sufficient, it is necessary to ensure a shift to sustainable and more efficient agriculture and to strengthen or build up domestic food production. The Ugandan government has launched an initiative to achieve these goals by reducing post-harvest losses in matoke bananas, the main staple in Ugandan diets.
Sustainable processing of matoke bananas
Estimates suggest that a third of all global food production is lost. The situation in Uganda is particularly difficult due to the lack of further processing facilities. The Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development, PIBID for short, was established in Uganda over 15 years ago. The initiative aimed to reduce post-harvest losses of matoke bananas, professionalise the processing chain and optimise the nutritional value of the food. In this context, the Leonberg-based engineering company Innotech was commissioned to plan and build a professional processing centre for matoke bananas in the Bushenyi District in the west of Uganda. Today, raw matoke bananas are turned into valuable dry products such as flour, porridge or biscuits in Bushenyi. This improves the life circumstances of the local population and also safeguards food supply. A stainless steel VDK 4.1 S hammer mill by Tietjen is used to process the matoke bananas. This hammer mill is designed for the finest grinding qualities.
2005 to 2015: Dedicated local facility to turn raw materials into valuable dried products
Almost 10 years passed between the initial enquiry and commissioning of the processing system on the ground. We received our first enquiry from Innotech concerning the grinding of dried bananas in 2005. Initial grinding tests were conducted on our test bed in 2007, accompanied by the Innotech project manager and government officials representing the client. “The scent of bananas wafted through our company for days”, remembers plant manager Peter Wagner. During this stage, our employees sampled the future dried products like flour, porridge and biscuits in the staff canteen.
The contract for a fine grinding system to process matoke bananas was awarded in 2010, and the plant delivered to Bushenyi the next year. It was designed for on-site assembly in a steel structure. We received the assignment to deliver the necessary steel structure in 2014, along with a pneumatic system to transport the banana chips from the storage silos to the grinding plant. The processing system was finally assembled and put into operation in 2015.
We are proud that this plant will help to improve food security in Uganda and reduce post-harvest losses in the agricultural sector. Our system in Africa includes all the necessary functions, and we are proud to share our knowledge and technology. The project brought home to us nonetheless that a lot more needs to be done to help disadvantaged people around the world. In response, we intend to continue improving our processes so that we can rise to the challenges of food production in tomorrow’s world.