In the face of climate change, Siyazisiza is committed to the value chain development of drought tolerant crops. As part of its overarching Enterprise Development programme, Siyazisiza initiated an agro-processing project in 2017 which aimed to test, maximize on growing and emerging markets in the food and health sectors, and explore strategies to mitigate long-standing problems experienced by small scale farmers trying to enter the commercial agro-processing industry.
Since its inception, the programme has established a community-based processing and production facility, complete with a mini food processing lab and grain puffing facility, to enable small-scale farmers to better participate in the identified markets and the beneficiation process associated with end product. The food processing lab contains all the necessary equipment to test and produce sample products which are packaged and introduced to market. It also serves as a workshop facility for training of beneficiaries in the development and/or refinement of the value-added products.
The lab has proven extremely valuable, enabling Siyazisiza and its beneficiaries to develop a wide range of sample products which are gradually being introduced to market to determine interest and demand. Some of the products produced include: beetroot powder, sweet potato flour, bulbine natalensis root powder, honey coated puffed cereal, ancient grain muesli and granola, puffed amaranth bars and carrot powder.
The beetroot powder and sweet potato flour specifically have been extremely well received by the market. Made from dehydrated beetroot and sweet potato crops, both products have an exceptionally high nutritional value. Beetroot has earned recognition as a superfood and sweet potato is an excellent gluten free crop. These crops are particularly easy and fast growing and are also relatively drought tolerant. They are also commonly grown by many small-scale farmers for sale in their raw form and for personal consumption.
Through market research and engagement, the Trust has identified a growing demand within the health food sector for a range of highly nutritious drought resistant puffed grains. With funds received from the Wesbank Fund, the Nedbank Foundation and other generous donors, the Trust purchased the necessary equipment to develop a range of sample puffed products – sorghum, millet, amaranth, spelt, buckwheat, pearl barley and quinoa – which were introduced to, and extremely well received by, the market.
Both the puffed grain and vegetable powder products rapidly gained traction. In particular, orders for the puffed grain products have been secured from multiple buyers in the health food sector. On the basis of the market demand, with further funding secured from Standard Bank, Siyazisiza is in the process of scaling-up the agro-processing operation and is putting in place the necessary food safety systems to ensure regulatory compliance.