Based on 2010 estimates, nearly 50% of the annual Tanzanian cereal grain (maize, sorghum, and millet) harvest of 20 million metric tonnes is lost due to unsafe and inadequate postharvest grain storage and handling. Nearly 25% of this annual loss is due to the onset of mycotoxins such as aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and fumonisin B1 (FB1) in maize and maize-based products. These fungi are extremely toxic to humans and when ingested may cause stunted growth, neural tube defects, suppression of immunity, and in severe cases, liver failure and death.
An indigenous method to reduce mycotoxins (aflatoxins and fumonisins) with great efficiency is to prepare a lactic acid fermented porridge or gruel whereby in Tanzania commonly known as “togwa,” from maize, sorghum, millet, cassava, or a blend of two or more of these grains as flours. This non-alcoholic, liquid food product not only acts as a preservative for its ingredients, but research has also shown that it significantly increases the nutritional value of the grain flour inputs.
Despite the annual consumption of nearly one million liters of togwa in villages and communities throughout rural Tanzania, its production remains highly localized, devoid of quality and safety standards, and unregulated at a federal level. These conditions, coupled with an inadequate supply of appropriate lactic acid cultures and the unavailability of high-volume processing equipment, have hampered large scale commercialization of togwa, and they have stained the reputation of such products as being of poor quality and a safety risk.
Nonetheless, the potential nutritional, health, and safety benefits of togwa justify commercializing it for distribution on a broader scale as readily available, affordable, and quality-controlled beverages and weaning food products. Furthermore, such industrialization will drive up the demand for maize, add economic value, domestically, and improve international competitiveness, thus benefiting key players throughout the value chain.
The school children love their porridge and certainly enjoy it, especially the fermented porridge that fasten their growth due to its nutritional value.