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close this bookFOOD CHAIN No. 09 - July 1993 (ITDG, 1993, 16 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGreetings
View the documentImportance of Mishti in Bangladeshi culture
View the documentMaking Soy Channa
View the documentHow to turn waste into food
View the documentIdentifying problems, designing solutions
View the documentNews Lines
View the documentNetetou - a typical African condiment
View the documentBook Lines
View the documentCash crops or food source? The price of agricultural success
View the documentHow to make channa and sondesh
View the documentAcknowledgments

Identifying problems, designing solutions


Both technology and business are often not considered enough in programmes assisting small and micro-enterprises. It is commonly felt that making serious efforts in good business management is not necessary for small firms and only applicable to larger companies.

The lack of attention paid to the vital complementarily of technology and business has been one of the main reasons for the failure of many programmes run by NGO’s. Many of these specialize and so can only work well in one area, technology or business management.

Such limitations become more serious in enterprise development targeted at organized groups of poor people who have little or no business experience. The matter is made even worse in the case of groups which form to meet objectives other than small enterprise. Too often NGO’s find it convenient to work with existing groups, who readily agree to enter into an activity in the hope that it may help raise their incomes In some cases the stronger members of the group take over the enterprise and the original cohesion of the group is lost.

IT has learnt, through working on income generation in food processing with Mothers Clubs in Peru, that training must be given in all business aspects and production methods. Such training can be provided either by using a multi-disciplinary team within the organization or linking with other local specialized institutions. It is only in this way, by considering both technology and business development skills, can we hope to meet our objectives


Whilst starting to produce a range of fruit nectars in the West Indies it was found that an unacceptable number of bottles began to show signs of mould growth and fermentation. The product, which contained no preservative, was pasteurized to 90°C and then hot filled. The bottles were steam-sterilized prior to filling and immediately closed with a Crown cap. What was going wrong? The process appeared perfect and it was important to avoid the use of any preservative as the marketing strategy was to sell pure exotic drinks to tourist hotels.

After filling, the hot bottles were normally stacked upright on a bench to cool. One day a worker, by chance, laid the bottles on their side to cool and discovered the answer to the problem. In some bottles a stream of tiny bubbles could be seen running from the Crown cap up through the liquid. The seal was not perfect and a small amount of air was being sucked in as vacuum formed in the cooling bottle. After a few minutes the stream of bubbles stopped as the cap drew tightly down on the bottle neck under the internal vacuum.

It was found that an initial cooling of hot filled bottles on their side overcame the problem of the nectar going bad. As the tiny bubbles passed through the hot nectar they were pasteurised.


The problem: A small treacle-making co-operative was established to create increased income for the juice suppliers. One manager was appointed with responsibilities to oversee treacle production and to sell the high quality product. It became clear that the manager could not be in two places at once - in the factory looking after the production and in the city 50 miles away dealing with retailers. In the end neither job was done properly.

The solution: Do not expect too much from small business supervisors and divide responsibilities for production and sales/marketing between two people.