Cocoa innovations could help West Africa escape poverty
September 21, 2005
Ghana looks to profit from cocoa wine and soap
Mon Sep 19, 2005 6:48 PM BST
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Ghana is leading efforts to use waste from cocoa farming to produce household products and drinks — from fertilizer and soap to wine and brandy — that will boost income for poor farmers.
The West African country has attracted massive interest after inviting bids from local and international companies to buy the unused parts of the cocoa plant, Roy Appiah, director of Ghana’s Cocoa Research Institute, said on Monday.
Appiah said the cocoa pod husks, fermentation juices and usually discarded beans can be used to make delicious wines, brandy and jam.
Ghana is the world’s second biggest producer of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate and a $4 billion industry, behind neighbor Ivory Coast, but an estimated 800,000 farmers survive on incomes of just a few hundred dollars a year.
The institute hopes the new products made from the two-thirds of the cocoa pod usually dumped as waste can add significant extra income for farmers.
“We want to add value to the farm waste. We have been able to use the pod husk as an animal feed ingredient,” Appiah said at a nutrition conference in Durban. “We have been able to perfect a soft soap (using the husk) and we realized we could use it as a potassium fertilizer.”
It was also marketing a wine, brandy, gin and jam range from the “sweating” during cocoa fermentation.
Appiah said the institute had only produced small quantities of the by-products but there was interest from private entrepreneurs to buy the cocoa waste and develop a whole new cocoa industry.
“The interest has been tremendous. Initially the farmer was not using the product but now he can sell the farm waste and make money,” he told Reuters.
Cocoa health benefits may boost West Africa farms
By Gordon Bell
Mon Sep 19,10:27 AM ET
Mars, Incorporated, the privately held U.S. company company that produces M&Ms, Twix, Snickers and other confectionaries is in talks with several large pharmaceutical companies to develop medications based on flavanols — plant chemicals with health benefits found in cocoa, according to a report from Reuters.
Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that have been shown to have a number of health-benefiting properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and anti-cancer activity. Cocoa, especially dark chocolate, has high amounts of the flavonoid Epicatechin and has been found to have nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea. Epicatechin may improve blood flow and may have potential applications for cardiac health. Two recent clinical trials have found that cocoa flavanols can boost the flow of blood to key areas of the brain, giving scientists hope for developing treatments for dementia and strokes. Another study found potential applications for treating blood circulation problems associated with long-term diabetes.
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Recent discoveries that cocoa could protect against heart disease and hypertension could see incomes soar for poor West African farmers, scientists working with confectionery maker Mars said of Monday.
Scientists at a nutrition conference in Durban said evidence was growing that chemicals in cocoa could provide massive medical benefits in the battle against heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and vascular dementia.
“The benefits (for Africa) are quite remarkable particularly if the health issues continue to be favorable,” said Norm Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, researching cocoa’s medicinal qualities with unlisted U.S. confectionery giant Mars.
War-torn Ivory Coast produces about 40 percent of the world’s cocoa and neighbor Ghana about 30 percent. Most of the product for the $4 billion market comes from tiny farms, offering the main source of income for poor families.
Hollenberg said a cocoa drink that keeps the benefits of the bitter flavanols — plant chemicals found in cocoa, and to a lesser degree in red wine and red tea — without the fattening calories of chocolate could come onto the market soon.
Flavanols are usually destroyed during the processing of the cocoa bean when making chocolate, and are not found in large quantities in any product currently on the market.
Clinical trials have found that the chemical can boost the flow of blood to key areas of the brain, raising the possibility of treatments for dementia and strokes.
A new study has also shown its ability to improve synthesis of nitric oxide by blood vessels could aid treatment of blood circulation problems associated with long-term diabetes.
“Overall, there is compelling evidence that a high dietary flavanol intake reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and the associated risk of premature death,” said Ian MacDonald, co-director of the Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Nottingham.
Hollenberg said that in time the discoveries could boost demand and more than double income for farmers.
“(We estimate) an average-size farm of five acres will produce an additional $1,000 a year income. It doesn’t sound like a lot but their current income is only $300 a year,” he said.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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