By Francis Padi Lamptey
My vision for my country is to see a self-sufficient nation that can produce enough to feed herself more sustainably even in the face of global warming and eccentric weather changes, a nation where poverty, hunger, and malnutrition is brought to the barest minimum by increasing the livelihood status of the rural poor and resource-constrained farmers through increased participation in agricultural diversification.
Most postgraduate students go through a lot of stress and gather many interesting data from farmers, marketers, processors, consumers etc. and keep the results to themselves without giving any feedback to the people they collected the data from. The feedback will help these people to make informed decisions and improve on their livelihood. The Field Attachment Program Award (FAPA), a competitive grant that is opened to RUFORUM MPhil students who have just submitted their thesis or graduated to disseminate their research findings or develop a business from their project.
The FAPA is usually linked to the Community Action Research Program (CARP+) projects supported by RUFORUM and Mastercard Foundation. My FAPA was equally linked to Ghana’s CARP+ project RU/2018/CARP+/06 titled: Development of sustainable commercial pineapple value chain system for increased yield and income, and improved livelihood of smallholder farmers in Central Region of Ghana being undertaken by the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and other key stakeholders. The CARP+ developed an acre demonstration farm at Kwadaso Agriculture College (KAC) of TVET and improved competencies of the students in pineapple production. The KAC needed to commercialize the production and processing of pineapple fruits being developed by the RU/2018/CARP+/06 for teaching, learning and business (to generate income for the College). After production, it became relevant to continue the pineapple value chain by adding value through processing of fruits. This also became necessary to improve students’ competency in fruit processing, reduce post-harvest losses, and generate more income for students and farmers among other benefits. Moreover, there is a huge market for pineapple juice in Kumasi Metropolis that needs to be exploited for potential employment by graduates of the TVET. Within the immediate environment of the college are pupils, students and civil servants that are potential clients for the juice.
Being a 2020 FAPA awardee, the first three months of my project gave me a special opportunity to be mentored by members of RUFORUM Secretariat and my Supervisor through virtual means. It also gave me an opportunity to meet other students who had equally completed their Masters education and were working on various projects, where we shared experiences and advised ourselves. This really helped me since it was my first time managing a grant. I also built rapport with the various stakeholders that helped me accomplish my project, especially with leadership of KAC.
Due to insurgence of COVID-19 cases in Ghana as from March to July 2020, there was a partial lock down in Ghana especially in the Greater Accra (National Capital) and the Ashanti (where KAC is located) regions of Ghana. Schools were closed down with students been restricted in their homes. Access to student engagement for my FAPA became a bit of a challenge.
Fortunately for me, in August, 2020, school resumed for sandwich students of the University of Cape Coast. Among these groups of students included students from the Department of Vocational and Technical Education (VOTEC) students which comprised Teachers from some of the Senior High School and College of Education teachers who were pursuing a Top-Up program for their Master of Philosophy Education. In consultation with my funders and Supervisor, I organised two training sessions for 42 students who came for the sandwich program, 5 national service personnel and two lecturers. They were trained on good pre-harvest and post-harvest practices to improve pineapple juice quality and safety. Two demonstration sessions were also organised for them to acquire competencies in quality pineapple juice production and composite juice processing. The students were advised to also train their students as they move back to their various schools. Students were trained using simple and complex juicers, blenders, etc. so that they can even practice in their own kitchens. The students expressed their joy after the training and promised to serve as ambassadors as they returned to their various schools.
In October, 2020, restrictions on COVID-19 were reduced and the students of KAC returned to school. I took advantage of this and trained the TVET students on commercializing pineapple processing. In total 69 students, 8 tutors, 2 national service personnel and two processors were trained. Two training sessions and demonstrations were organised for them too. Key things taught during the demonstration session included ensuring good hygiene and adhering to COVID-19 protocols, sorting of fruits, washing and peeling them, cutting fruits and blending or juicing them, straining and bottling juice, labelling, and storing juice in refrigerators or freezers.
Meeting with students at the KAC began with an opening ceremony in attendance were the Ashanti Regional director for Ministry of Food and Agriculture, The Principal and Vice Principal of KAC, the PI of UCC RUFORUM CARP+ project, Prof Festus Annor-Frempong and Shaibu Zikiru (PhD candidate, UCC RUFORUM CARP+ project).
The students were happy and said the program served as an eye opener for them to begin some business on and around campus. The lecturers expressed their joy and satisfaction from the training. In addition to ensuring sustainability and continuous practice of skills from the FAPA training, KAC has in place a market where they sell pineapple juice and fruits.
Outcome of the FAPA training ensured that students are trained on composite juice production from pineapple and other fruits. Students were able to develop pineapple based products such asPinaCarota (pineapple, carrot), PinaGinger (pineapple, ginger), PinaCum (pineapple, cucumber) and PinaPa (pineapple, passion fruit). Ginger, Carrot, Cucumber and Passion fruits were used since they are in abundance in the Kumasi Metropolis. Sensory evaluation was conducted by the students and PinaCarota and PinaGinger were scored higher marks in terms of color, taste, aroma, aftertaste and overall acceptability.
I will like to thank RUFORUM for this initiative that ensures research findings in the African Universities do not gather dust on the shelves but been disseminated to those who need them. This has helped me personally since it has served as an eye opened in managing a research grant.
I am currently an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Food Science and Postharvest Technology, Cape Coast Technical University, Ghana. This platform would enable me continue to train students to enhance competencies in processing pineapple based products.