Opportunities for Technology Transfer


Diaspora Conference Paper Presented in Minna, Nigeria. July 2010
Remi Kehinde Alao, University of Phoenix


Food processing dates to the prehistoric age when food items not immediately consumed in whole undergo crude processing of slaughtering, fermenting, sun drying, cooking, salting, and others such as roasting, smoking, steaming, and oven baking. Modern food processing technology also includes vacuum bottling technique and pasteurization, and it has been extended to biotechnological treatment of food precursors and microorganisms whose actions on food items result in deterioration.

Need for concerted efforts to ensure lasting food processing and preservation technology in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized in view of the prevailing man-made and natural constraints. Natural constraints include weather seasonality, pest and diseases and short shelf-life of food items resulting in low food productions/yield, low harvest and supply shortage. Man-made constraints include absence of coordinated and sustainable approach to food policy in Nigeria.

Fundamentals of food security include food variety, production and availability. It also includes food distribution, processing, and preservation. There is a need for holistic combination of local stakeholders’ involvement with modern food production and processing technologies both of which need to be grounded on consistent policy that is backed by sustained infrastructural development, capacity building and proactive engagement.

Key words: Processing, Preservation, Food Security, Sustainability, Biotechnology, Enzymatization, Caramelization, Controlled Water Dispenser, Field Rain-water Storage, Solar Tunnel Dryer.


The Utmost Goal of Food Processing Include Extension of Its Shelf-Life Through:

  • Removal of moisture
  • Temperature control
  • pH control
  • Use of chemical preservatives
  • Irradiation


Foods deliver their optimal nutritional values when fresh and these qualities are highest at the time of their harvest or slaughter. Because all the food cannot be consumed at harvest, there is a need to maintain their freshness in one form or another for later consumption by subjecting them to different applications like cold, heat, chemical or controlled microbial reactions or combinations of these methods. Cold usually means refrigeration or freezing. Heating involves many processing methods, such as pasteurization, sterilization, and drying. Addition of preservative ingredients and processing to alter or retard ripening processes. Treatment with microbial elements also alter the ripening or maturing processes in food or food precursors


Preservation techniques are designed to counteract or slow the changes which cause deterioration by the following agents among others:

  • Microorganisms – resulting from excessive or undesirable number of micro-organisms, moisture, pH level, Oxygen, Temperature and nutrients in the food
  • Enzymatic Reactions - result of certain enzyme catalyzing reactions on components in the food. An example is discoloration seen in peeled ripe bananas or sliced apples.
  • Enzymatic spoilage also causes the production of off-odors and off-flavors in foods such as meats and meat products.
  • Chemical Reactions - Two common types of chemical deterioration of foods: Oxidative rancidity and non-enzymatic browning.
  • Oxidative Rancidity occurs due to breakdown of fats especially food with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids. Rancidity also produces off-flavors and off-odors.
  • Non-enzymatic Browning – This occurs when sugars and amino acids present in the food go through a series of reactions producing a brown color in the food.


Figure 1
2008 USAid Estimation Of Food Security Conditions For Nigeria.

The figure above which is the 2008 estimate by FEWS.NET speaks for itself. Except for North central region which exhibits high food insecurity, Nigeria is not threatened by famine. Moderate food insecurity however covers most part of the country, including the food basket region of the middle belt (2010 estimate shows similar pattern). Interesting to note is the delta region which lies in the swampy mangrove forest belt. Nigeria is blessed with large agricultural land, wide varieties of plants and animal species, different climatic conditions to cultivate varieties. Inadequate food production and processing that raise the stake for moderate food insecurity in Nigeria can only be blamed largely on negligence and wrong strategy.

Food security needs holistic approach; it entails more than having enough food on an ad- hoc basis as frequent food importation seems to suggest. Food security becomes a reality when we can look ahead and be assured that we are in comfortable possession of what it takes to produce more than enough food products in a sustainable manner always. With very large agricultural land, Nigeria can produce all its food need through a combination of adaptive technology and infrastructural development by tailoring food processing to our national possibilities, strengthening research and developing in food and agricultural products. The need for a consistent policy that provide effective incentive structure for sustainable management of food production and processing resources will help ensure that national agriculture, food production and processing are developed with a holistic approach (FAO, 1996).

Under the auspices of FAO’S vision of a world without hunger, and to kick-start national programs for food security, world leaders gathered in Rome in 1996 to lay the foundations for diverse paths to a common objective for food security at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels. The FAO at that time affirmed that “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO). The declaration further emphasized that food security depends on sustainable management of fish, forests, and wildlife. Furthermore, the declaration emphasized that active incorporation of traditional local knowledge within indigenous communities plays an important role in the achievement of food security.


Agriculture has contributed to national food security by helping to maintain a healthy and peaceful population. It has also been a source of food and nutrition for households. Export earnings from Agriculture rose consistently from N2.85b (US$ 0.354b) to N19.17b (US$ 2.484b) between 1990 and 2000 but food import also rose in similar proportion within this period.

Table 2.
Comparison of Food Production, and Demand with Shortfalls and Imports (Million Mt)

Description 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Production 93.35 95.64 98.74 100.41 102.12 103.86
Food demand 96.26 99.03 101.87 104.63 107.46 110.37
Shortfall/surplus (2.91) (3.43) (3.13) (4.22) (5.34) (6.51)
Food import 2.95 3.47 3.24 4.48 5.59 6.91

In 2001 for instance (see above data), Nigeria imported 6.91% of our food to make up for the shortfall, out of this, $700m was spent to import Thai rice (this amount is a small fraction of the total money spent to bridge the 6.91% food short fall. This year, the figure for imported rice from Thailand stands at $800million (about #180billion), according to the chief executive of Thai’s Chareon Pokphand group during his investment visit to Nigeria.

Food import is not strange and should not been out of place, especially when considered against the backdrop of the projected increase in world population. Most of this is expected to occur in developing countries. But Nigeria cannot afford to embrace globalization without a holistic consideration of our contribution to global value chain in food production, processing and trading. We should embrace food security from the very base of the food supply chain. Food production is the first step in the food availability chain and the first step needed to move Nigeria from being a net food importer to surplus food producer. Excerpt from FAO 2002 Statistics on its vision of a world without hunger indicates that least developed countries (LDCs), have largely shifted from being net food exporters to net importers of predominantly processed food products. OECD came with similar projections for LDC. According to the forecast of OECD, real time price for grain and vegetable oils will increase by up to 40% in the next 10 years while prices of Dairy products are projected to be on average between 16-45 percent high.

Data available from FAO, suggests that sub-Sahara African needs substantial efforts to reduce the number of undernourished people in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2020. As at 2003, sub-Sahara Africa recorded around 33% undernourished people, almost double the MDG target of 17% for this region by 2015 (see table 1). Although Nigeria’s food shortage is not dramatic - estimated at 6.91% (Table 2) of consumption, wastage incurred through post-harvest loss, is far higher than the declared shortfall with far-reaching consequences on food security in Nigeria.

Table 2.
Proportion Of Undernourished People And The Millennium Development Goal Target

The report further projected that for the food deficient group (including Nigeria) there is great vulnerability and uncertainty of food supplies during production and price volatility. This necessitates raising domestic food supply through increased food production, processing and distribution capacity. Other far reaching approach must include investing in education, training, extension services, research & training, and through efficient distribution policy that guarantee food availability. Agricultural products by their nature have short shelf-life, whether raw or processed form, lasting food security therefore, will come from sustainable year-round diversified food production, processing and storage backed by technologies that work. 4. Importance of food processing:

Processed foods now account for some 80% of global food sales estimated at US$4 trillion in 2002. UNIDO Industrial Statistics Database, 2005 show that food processing in developing countries is an important component of the manufacturing sector, on average, food processing participation on the overall gross product corresponds to around 2.4 percent in most developing countries with Nigeria recording insignificant percentage of food processing relative to food consumption and food import. Per 2006 report of Agri-food trade service of Canada, Nigeria imports approximately US$2.5 billion worth of food products and exports only US$400 million with processed foods and live animals constituting the two largest agricultural imports from Canada. An estimated 60% of basic bulk food products and ingredients inputs used in the food processing sector are imported to support domestic food manufacturers and processors (West 2006). This obviously impacts negatively on our contribution to global value chain (GVC) where trade between nations gives way to global flows of processed food identified as a key feature of global food security. Total sales of processed food product that pass through global value chain is estimated at US$3.2 trillion in 2002.


Biotechnology includes a wide range of diverse technologies such as gene modification, the use of molecular markers; development of recombinant vaccines and DNA-based methods of disease characterization/diagnosis; in-vitro vegetative propagation of plants, other reproductive technologies in animals or triploidization in fish, which may be applied in each of the different food and agriculture sectors. It also includes a range of technologies used to process raw food materials produced by the crop, fishery and livestock sectors. Microbial cultures can be genetically improved using both traditional and molecular approaches, and improvement of bacteria, yeasts and moulds offer potential for improving the quality, safety and consistency of fermented foods; improving efficiency in the production of fermented foods, food ingredients, food additives and food processing aids (enzymes); diversifying the outputs of fermentation processes and, finally, improving diagnostic and identification systems applicable to foods.

Applications of biotechnology to plants or animals can help improve their food processing properties, e.g. genetically modified tomato variety with retarded ripening rate or to produce increased proteins yield from plant or animal products by genetically modified enzymes and other useful microorganisms. Nigeria can benefit immensely through focused policy on biotechnology application in cultivation, harvesting, storage, processing of food products. Example of biotech application in food processing that enhance food quality, yield, shelf-live and variety include:

Genetically Improving Microbial Culture: Genetically improved useful micro-organisms such as yeast, moulds, bacteria can lead to improved food flavor, color, taste, aroma, and texture.

Mutagenesis And Conjugation: Mutagenesis and conjugation of bacteria are also referred to as hybridization or asexual breeding/mating of yeast. This can also lead to improved yield in quantity and quality.

Molecular Approach Include Among Others:
a. Genetic modification – this is the same as recombinant approach used in GMO to achieve desirable gene in yeast
b. Genetic characterization – molecular diagnostics of microbial strains for fermentation.
c. Genomics – functional genomes help understand fermentation process and genetic differences among different strains of microbes
d. Genetically modifying enzyme – DNA coding and cloning of chymosin enzyme in calve stomach that cause milk to curdle in cheese production by helping to increased fresh cheese (locally called Wara in Nigeria) production, further manipulation of nutritional enzymes under our climatic condition can also lead to increased shelf-life of many food products

The factors influencing the appropriateness or choice of different biotechnology application at any point on the food chain include their impacts on the environmental, human health, the intellectual property status of specific biotechnology application. Its role includes bio- safety regulations and controls, the degree of access to a particular biotechnology, the level of capacity-building or resources required to use them, their financial cost and their overall impact on food production and food security. Achi (2005), has demonstrated simple improvement to shelf-life, increased protein yields and industrial production potentials of Nigeria fermented foods through biotechnological treatment at different stages of preparation.


Adoption, modernization and expansion of traditional methods of food production by rural farmers is probably the easiest short term solution Nigeria urgently needs while concurrently pursuing the long-term application of bio-technology described above. For example, simple water conservation technique for year-round irrigation and food production can guarantee uninterrupted water supply during dry season. It is a common phenomenon that the greatest precipitation problem in arid region is not lack of water but run-off erosion that happen during the short but heavy downpour because the earth is compacted and instead of water being absorbed, it run-off washing nutrients of the soil away with it. Similar situations happen in non- arid region of Nigeria where dry season render farmers idle for lack of rainfall. Ironically, 80 percent of water available during raining season is lost to run-off which takes with it fertile surface of the agricultural farmland. To combat this menace of run-offs, and seasonal productions fluctuations, underground rain-water storage tanks on the farms can be constructed to retain rain water, stop run-off, prevent erosion, and guarantee extended water supply and year- round food productions.

Efficient Use of Water Resources:

Figure one below (culled from USAID), shows seasonal food availability in Nigeria. Except for about two months’ overlap of hunger season in July/August during which time there is no harvest, optimal food and animal production is possible throughout the year including the three to four months of dry season if water resource is carefully managed. This will also drastically reduce the idle period, increase production and varieties of food products. Well tested and widely used “controlled water dispenser” system to irrigate plants on the field or in greenhouse is a simple technique that direct water droplets to that part of a plant that actually needs water for growth-usually the root. So, with prudent and controlled dispensation of water, an acre of farm land can survive with a few liters of water that is targeted towards the point where it is needed by the plant.

Table 3
Seasonal Food Availability in Nigeria

Use of Solar Powered Field Water Pump: Use of Solar powered field water pump and dispenser to provide energy required to perform basic farm work that require energy supply, solar water pump will be useful to either pump from underground water tank or from farm boreholes. In a similar manner, simple solar powered water pump, solar water heater, solar powered dryer and simple portable solar electrification are now possible for deployment in different sizes to help farmers get energy needed to pump water, provide light for their pen, dry their farm products and provide power to help maintain nutritional value of stored or processed farm products.

Statistics consistently shows that over 70 % of Nigeria labor force depends on agriculture (NBS), and nearly all farmers are small-hold farmers, mostly uneducated, lacking the most basic financial resources to afford even the simplest of all recommended techniques -Targeted assistance to this vulnerable groups can be an immense booster to food production. This can be achieved through such methods or combination of some of these methods:

a. Extending farm extension services to educate farmers on adoption of basic production and food processing techniques
b. Start-up assistance to farmers in forming different independent cooperative organizations through which farmers can derive synergy across production chain
c. Production purchase guarantee in case of surpluses
d. Availability of infrastructure – the greatest challenge to growth of all value chain in Nigeria is the lack of infrastructure. Nearly everything produced locally is more expensive than imported products because the local producer needs to add all the unrelated cost of productions that include road rehabilitation, water supply, electricity generation, hospital construction and maintenance, provision of round-the-clock security. The situation is further compounded by importation that ultimately knock local food producer out of business because they are cheaper, cleaner, have extended shelf-life because they are either wholly or semi-processed on arrival.


One of the sources of food insecurity in Africa is post-harvest crop loss. Pre- and post- harvest crop loss in Africa is estimated at over 10% of production, this figure is higher than global average and obviously impact more heavily on the already impoverished livelihood of ordinary African family (NEPAD). The situation is aggravated because of lack of access to basic technology by the mostly subsistence farming communities in Africa. A wide range of existing food processing technologies is not accessible to and adapted by African countries and their communities. The situation is further compounded by natural conditions like adverse climatic changes that cause crop losses, floods, heavy rains, droughts and other related factors also cause considerable post-harvest crop loss.

An important aspect of food loss reduction is to embrace both farm and industrial levels food processing that help preserve and extend shelf-life of food products. Food processing will include food canning, packaging and treatment with ripening and preservative agents. There exist several simple, efficient and proven farm level and large scale food processing practices. An example of this is the solar tunnel dryer being deployed in many developing countries such as India and Bangladesh – the system is composed of a large bowl of solar collector to which a ventilator is attached which blows heated air at controlled temperature into the tunnel where farm products to be dried are spread (REZA et al, 2008).

Although the system of air drying of farm products leads to comparatively higher loss of nutrients than freeze dried farm products (Michalczyk et al, 2008), it can be very desirable in Nigeria where energy infrastructure is not available to freeze-dry fresh farm products. The system however reduces food loss, preserves nutritional content, prevents contamination, help speed up cycle of production, provide value added income to farmers and the concept can be modified to dry any farm product.


Nature, through its control over climate, makes agricultural productions and shelf-life of most agricultural products to be naturally very short. To keep our food consumption taste and culture, Nigeria needs home grown and adaptive solutions in food processing and preservation. For instance:

a. Revamping and strengthening existing research institutions in Nigeria – including independent, institutional and specialized research centers. This appeal is directed to multi-national and large corporations in Nigeria to extend their sponsorship activities they do abroad to Nigerian research institutions, in most developed countries, corporations actively fund research activities, they support emerging scientists, encourage discoveries through targeted funding. It is only through such local content development that we can position our agricultural industry to achieve economy of scale in food production and by implication food security.

b. Our training and education system should move away from theory to adaptive and applied technology – Our educational and training system will remain faulty if there is no technical reorientation. In many countries with sound capacity education, secondary school graduates are groomed in their last years of school to focus on what they know and like best, Industries are encouraged to open training opportunity for them and tailor-made parallel schooling opportunity accompany their practical training during their three to four years’ apprentice. Today, it is mostly those apprentices sent to developing countries that we hail as experts in Nigeria and worship them over our indigenous experts, because our experts are deficient in functional exposure.

c. Year-round food production, accompanied by simple food processing technologies that extend shelf-life and nutritional value of processed food products as explained earlier provide the most promising option for our sustainable food security - see samples of processed food stuff with simple technology on the table.

d. Resolution of national energy anathema, without which there can be no capacity building, no growth of even the simplest home industry. Inevitably, we may continue to mortgage not only our food security, but also our national interest in all fronts.


Policy makers have been led to believe that technology transfer, importation and ad-hoc development is the way to sustainable food security, experience has however shown that there is no short-cut to development, every nation that has reached self-sufficiency security in food production today, had engaged in consistently focused in-house research and developmental programs. The UN also recognize that eliminating hunger and achieving MDG and WFS targets would require a comprehensive set of actions at the national, state and local levels that may also require engaging large numbers of rural farmers in applying locally-specific solutions involving the use of simple, improved technologies as mentioned above to address problems of production short-fall, postharvest loss, storage loss, hunger and malnutrition.

Nigeria should constitute a single national program for food security or strengthen an existing one that will oversee the entire food value chain from seeds to value added ready-to-eat product for export and import. Hitherto, there has been plethora of initiatives, idea and schemes (NBS, 2010), each without any consistent long term sustainable strategic plan. And where long term plan existed, constant policy change rendered all good efforts in this respect wasteful. NAFDAC as a central agency for food and drug control can perform its role differently to achieve a better result. Up till now, it has succeeded in eliminating would be small players through unbearable license fees on raw and processed foods and drinks. Instead, the agency should expand opportunity to very small players by reducing the tall barrier to entry. On the other hand, it should strengthen quality control mechanisms to prevent fraud, adulteration, copy- write breach and intellectual property violations (Food Security Department of FAO).

Technological transfer is not something you have to ask for, thanks to globalization; there are enough proven researches and technologies out there begging to be adopted, but you should have a matching attitude, there has to be an enabling environment for any acquired technology to make meaningful impact. We cannot reinvent the wheel when it comes to food production and processing. Natural diversity is imposed by different climatic condition within Nigeria, therefore, automatic adoption of imported technology without home adaptation may be unproductive. When enabling environment such as right attitude to research, right approach to the scope of our responsibilities, right attitude to maintenance, sincere understanding of our limitations and how to bridge the gap and right approach to problem solving are encapsulated into a holistic policy, we shall witness an explosion of growth in Nigeria’s contribution to global value chain in food and guaranteed food security.

Our biggest obstacle is probably our user/consumer mentality, we want the best and the latest of everything but we are impatient either to develop or adapt the ones that best suited to us for us, we also lack the maintenance culture after acquisition. The simplest technology out there has taken several years and uncountable attempts to get to the lime-light, adopting a technology without fundamental understanding of how to maximize its positive impact is a wasteful effort. Nigeria might benefit better if public and private players support and promote the “Lab-to-Field- to-Table” approach which guarantees sustainable food security and income generation through improved production, storage, distribution, and preservation across the food chain.


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