Prof. dr. Remco Kort
Child mortality from dehydration caused by diarrhoea is a major problem in Africa. Probiotic yoghurt with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG can reduce the duration and intensity of the rota virus associated diarrhoea. In public private partnership we studied, developed and launched a starter culture in Uganda which farmers can apply in producing probiotic yoghurt of their milk.
With use of a recent grant from the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) we can scale up our activities. The ‘Fermented food for life’ proposal by UWO, JKUAT, Heifer International, TTC Mobile, No Money No Cry Films and Yoba for Life has obtained a subsidy of around 950,000 euros from the IDRC. This will be used to develop and apply a business model aimed at enabling locally produced probiotic yoghurt to reach one million people in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. ‘Fermented food for life’ was selected by the IDRC from 184 applications.
The project comes out of a study, published recently by among others TNO and Yoba for Life in Microbial Cell Factories, in which a starter culture is developed that allows African farmers to propagate a probiotic strain in locally produced milk. To make this happen, the international consortium creates a system that improves each link in the chain from milk to yoghurt so that local production by farmer cooperatives can be scaled up and, with it, the use of probiotic yoghurt. Activities target the supply side by training programs on production, distribution and sales as well as the demand side through radio shows and a locally produced movie on how controlled fermentation of foods positively affects the life of African farmers. Currently, the initiative led in Uganda alone to a weekly production of probiotic yogurt 8,000 litres per week by 50 dairy cooperatives for 30,000 consumers.
Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa show great potential for even further expansion of the yogurt market through micro-processors. Yoghurt demand is growing steadily across all social classes. Our approach includes the provision of dairy cooperatives with a dried bacterial starter culture accompanied by a simple and controlled production method to produce safe probiotic yoghurt. Unlike commercially available starter cultures, the Yoba culture that is provided here has a long shelf life, does not require refrigeration, and the packaging size is suitable for small-scale producers. This will improve access to healthy fermented foods. Besides, there is ample evidence for impact on health, in particular among children. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the L. rhamnosus GG bacteria present in the fermented products are able to reduce the duration of rotavirus-associated diarrhoea, which is a major concern, in particular among children, as reported. Hence, the introduction of this probiotic yoghurt can be regarded as an effective contribution to the improvement of health and wealth in Africa.