Cover Image
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


A journal about small-scale food processing



It was originally planned that this edition of Food Chain centre around the theme 'learning from mistakes'. The editor sent letters to many fieldworkers requesting articles; none came. From this we assume nobody makes mistakes or that subscribers do not wish to admit to them! This is a pity as it is important to document negative results to allow others to avoid the same errors. This edition of Food Chain, therefore, does not have a central theme but contains a selection of articles describing experiences in projects that, it is hoped, will be of interest to our readers.


Food Chain's technical editor, after more than 20 years in development has the uncomfortable feeling that he has been making some grave mistakes by being too close to the detail of current work. While the information being provided by development journals such as Food Chain may, in the immediate sense, be helping to improve the life of resource poor people in developing countries, it appears that a number of central, long term questions are rarely asked. These include:

· what will the economic, manufacturing and social structure look like in the year 2000;
· how will expected changes affect poor people;
· what technical solutions need to be examined to minimize foreseen negative changes


In most western countries dramatic changes have occurred in the food and crop processing areas (and other manufacturing sectors) since the 1950's The emergence of a small number of large food manufacturing plants have all but replaced small producers such as bakeries and breweries. There has been a substantial drop in labour needed in food manufacture A typical modern food factory is highly automated and needs few workers. The regulations governing the production, handling and sale of foods are complex and costly to comply with, making them unaffordable to the small scale food processing sector. There has been a rapid change in the way that foods are sold. Large superstores, with relatively few staff, are now replacing small shops. These superstores increasingly market their own brand products which are produced under license by large food manufacturers. In most cases a large supermarket chain will only buy from a smaller manufacturer if it can supply all the shops the company owns Few small manufacturers can produce such volume. Large companies have the capacity to use very sophisticated advertising techniques. Purchase is now influenced less by the actual quality of the food in the container and more by presentation.

The overall result of these changes has been a dramatic fall in the number of people employed in the production, distribution and retailing of foods. The food processing sector is now controlled by a relatively small number of very large companies and small manufacturers find it very difficult to compete Those that do tend to produce specialized products, with sales volumes too small to interest the big manufacturer.


Similar trends can already be seen in developing countries; the emergence of supermarkets, more food regulations, larger manufacturing plants. In ten years time it is likely that only medium sized enterprises may have the resources and professional skills to compete with the large manufacturers. Yet the target group of many agencies remains the poor, micro enterprise sector. Should it remain so?

It is suggested that those working in development need to start considering what the impact of the technological changes taking place around them are likely to be on poor people and also what, if any, solutions can be found to soften the impact of the modern world

This leader does not pretend to offer solutions but rather open a debate as to the kind of information and technical development that needs to start now in order to prepare for the probable impact of the modern world.

Your views would be appreciated - please do write in.

Importance of Mishti in Bangladeshi culture

Mishti are traditional sweetmeats made from milk solids & made and consumed in large quantities all over West Benegal and Bangladesh. They are an essential part of Bengali culture and heritage, used in some religious ceremonies and all private and official functions.

There are some 60,000 mishti shops in West Bengal alone and several mishti chain stores flourishing in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, and other large towns. In the rural areas of Bangladesh small mishti producers are mainly from the Hindu Ghosh and Modak communities who are traditionally involved with milk and milk products. Few of these producers have a permanent shop. In towns, many producers sell their products to tea stalls and restaurants. It is difficult to estimate the turnover as much of the mishti making is in the informal sector.


Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dependent on imported milk; in 1977-78, Tk110 million (nearly £2 million) was spent on importing milk and milk products. This figure rose to Tk4140 million (nearly £67 million) in 1989-90 and the milk import bill is still rising. Liquid milk consumption is, however, very low - only about 14g per person daily. It is the huge quantities of milk in the mishti making sector that is blamed for the increase in imports and so the Government is considering imposing some restrictions on making mishti In the draft National Livestock Policy, for example, it has already proposed to introduce a 'sweetmeat-less day' at least once a week in large towns.

This article describes the importance of mishti in Bangladeshi culture and how to make mishti alla perhaps more importantly, soy mishti It is estimated that 25 per cent of the substantial imports of milk powder is used in the production of mishti; if manufacturers could be persuaded to adopt this process there are potentially substantial import savings and the benefit of the savings ending up in the local economy - soy bean farmers and mishti makers.

Attempts to reduce this dependence on imported products have been made by development agencies involved in introducing soy- based food products into the country's existing dietary patterns. But the possibility of using soy milk in mishti production was not seriously considered, probably because special treatment of the soy milk is needed to make it suitable for use in the manufacturing process.


Gono Unnayan Prochesta (GUP) is one such development agency which has worked on the introduction of soybeans for more than a decade, concentrating on the development and diffusion of recipes for domestic utilisation of soybeans.

Their efforts to develop soy mishti were disappointing for many years because of problems with the product's colour, flavour and texture. But in 1988, the Food Processing programme within GUP launched a project with specific objectives to reduce the amount of milk used in making sweetmeats by replacing it with soy products, thereby reducing the country's dependence on imported milk powder and building up food processing opportunities for the poor of Bangladesh. It aimed to make available a low cost alternative raw material for the mishti industry, without reducing the quality of the product, and thereby releasing valuable milk supplies for consumption by vulnerable groups.


Experienced sweetmeat makers were involved to assist the project's nutritionist in the development of soy mishti. Through their efforts a process has been developed to produce mishti using 70 per cent soy channa in dark coloured mishtis like kalajam and 50 per cent soy channa in white mishtis like rossogolla (channa is the name given to the coagulated milk solids used as an ingredient in mishti).

The quality of the product has been evaluated by experienced sweetmeat makers and they ranked it above commercially available mishti prepared from skimmed milk powder, which is the most widely used adulterant used in place of fresh milk channa.


A market test of soy mishti has been carried out by selling more than Tk10,000 worth of soy mishti through grocers' shops and lea stalls. A group of women have been trained to make soy channa and soy mishti independently. They are now in commercial production.

The main problem identified was the mishti shop owners' reluctance to use soy channa in making mishti because milk was cheap in Rajair, (the working area of GUP) which at Tk8-12 per kg in 1990, was 50-100 per cent cheaper than in the city market Also the mishti business was very competitive, so nobody was willing to take the risk of selling soy mishti, fearing it would hamper their goodwill. All these production shops use defatted channa and skimmed milk powder as adulterants in making mishti without informing the consumer, so it is expected that they will also use soy channa, which is better than defatted channa, provided soy mishti becomes better known in the market. To overcome these problems the GUP Food Processing Project planned to sell soy mishti in the local market. Unfortunately from early 1991, the work was held up due to lack of funds and the departure of key trained staff. Pilot production of soy mishti and soy channa however still continues alongside test marketing of fried soy mishti, using only soy channa.

Making Soy Channa

An acceptable quality product can he prepared using the straightforward methods and very simple equipment developed by the Food Processing, Project of GUP.

· Soak the soybeans for 8-12 hours in 10 litres of water per 1kg dry soybean. If the water contains iron this can be removed by using a simple charcoal filter and by aeration using an ordinary aquarium aerator.

· Care should be taken to remove crushed, bad quality and infested beans as they produce a beany flavour during soaking

· Blanch the soaked soybeans, in a perforated bucket or pan, for one to three minutes by dipping them in boiling water. The container should be moved up and down to ensure proper heat treatment.

· Blanching destroys enzymes that are responsible for the development of beany flavours. Longer blanching produces an inferior soy channa that is not suitable for use in sweetmeat production

· Peel the blanched beans by rubbing, then wash and grind on a stone. More than one grind is needed because fine grinding increases the yield of channa Boiling water is added at this stage to assist the girding - the use of cold water may produce a beany flavour.

· Add the ground paste to a large pan containing boiling water and stirr thoroughly. Filter the mixture using a fine cotton cloth. The residue can be used for making different foods or can be dried and used as poultry feed.

· The resulting soy milk is removed from the fire and a quantity of soured, fermented cow milk whey is added and mixed well. The milk coagulates immediately leaving a clear whey.

· The optimum pH for coagulation of soy milk is 4.2 - 4.6 and the temperature is ARC. Initially it is better to use a thermometer and pH indication paper to control the conditions. About 150-200 ml of fermented whey is needed per litre of soy milk coagulation depending on the pH of the whey.

· Leave the coagulated mass to stand for half an hour and then strain using a fine cotton cloth. After hanging for several hours, the resulting soy channa should be put under pressure for 10-20 minutes to remove excess whey.

· The resulting soy channa is used in making soy mishti in the same way as cows' milk channa


For further information contact:
Mr Shamin Abu Ahmed,
GUP, 4/5 Iqbal Road, Block A,
Mohammadpur, Dhaka,

How to turn waste into food

The pulp juice and fruit pods of the cocoa plant are usually discarded as waste. But they can be put to good use: from the pulp juice it is possible to make refreshing drinks, wine, jams, jellies, and even vinegar. The crushed pods can be used in animal feed and as a fertilizer. Werner Baensch describes how the waste can be turned into money making products using relatively simple methods.

For small family farms additional income is vital for survival and such sources of cash are especially important when sales of the farm's main crop are subject to extreme price fluctuations on the world market. When the price of coffee and cocoa crashes, for example, producers feel the full impact. If the family has no financial reserves to keep it going it may even lose its livelihood.

Where cocoa is a farm's primary product, this additional income could be earned by making appetizing foods and drinks from cocoa residues during the harvest period, on the principle that 'if the cocoa market is going to crash, use the crop to gain good cash!' The methods involved are easy, and saleable products can be made and marketed without having to buy any major items of equipment: those methods described here have already been tested by women's groups in the Dominican Republic.


The foods and drinks are made from the fruity, sweet pulp juice, or a puree of the cocoa fruit. This juice begins to drip out as soon as the cocoa pods have been opened and the cocoa beans removed. In fully ripe fruits the pulp juice contains up to 15 per cent sugar (glucose and fructose), as well as enough fruit acid and pectin to enable pleasant-tasting juices, wines and jams to be made.

To obtain a high juice yield (8-10 per cent of the harvest-fresh cocoa bean weight) and to ensure fast, hygienic processing, it is advisable to open the cocoa fruits in the immediate vicinity of the production facility, i.e. where the cocoa is fermented. The present harvest practice, common throughout the country, of opening the pods in the field, inevitably leads to considerable losses of pulp juice during transport to the production facility, as well as a drop in quality due to contamination of the pulp juice by undesirable micro organisms.

As soon as the cocoa beans have been transferred to the fermentation boxes, the white fruit pulp adhering to them liquefies, due to the action of enzymes that break down pectin A milky pulp juice with a very fruity flavour is produced. It is advisable to fit a collecting trough to the fermentation boxes so that the juice can flow off hygienically and without loss into a tank.

Farmers who practice heap fermentation at ground level should extract the pulp juice beforehand using a basket or bag press In this way the juice yield will be higher and it will be obtained more quickly. Separating the pulp juice does not affect the quality of cocoa fermentation. By adding drinking water, sugar and a little lemon juice (optional) to the pulp juice, a pleasant tasting, refreshing drink can be made. If poured into sterile bottles, sealed and pasteurized, the drink will keep for several weeks with or without subsequent cold storage Using suitable yeast cultures (ordinary yeast or special varieties for making fruit wine), the pulp juice can be turned into a fine, harmonious fruit wine which, depending on the natural sugar content or the amount of sugar added, has an alcohol content of up to 12 per cent. However, careful control of fermentation and maturing are essential if satisfactory results are to be achieved. As a dry table wine or a sweet dessert wine, a product of this kind will soon find a market.

Pulp juices which have started fermenting, are slightly contaminated or were pressed late can still be used to make table vinegar. So if something goes wrong during the first attempt at making wine, it doesn't mean that all the materials and effort have been wasted.

A tasty jelly, which is eaten as a sweet spread or dessert, can be made by adding sugar or cane-juice to the fresh pulp juice and chopped fruit-pulp residues. They can also be combined with other fruits, which may have poorer setting properties, to make very tasty jams. To ensure consistent quality one should always use standard recipes, and the individual steps in the process should be carefully co-ordinated. The market is highly sensitive to fluctuations in quality. For small production facilities quality control can be limited to organoleptic tests; (taste, appearance, clarity and odor). Any imperfect products should not be marketed at all.


An aromatic wine, with a typical cocoa flavour, can be made from the fermented, dried and freshly roasted cocoa beans. After removing outer shells, the cocoa beans are finely crushed (though not ground to a pulp), and then mixed with drinking water and sugar according to the recipe. Yeast is then added. Under tropical conditions, alcoholic fermentation is complete within 30 days. The wine is then carefully decanted off and after several weeks storage the cocoa wine then develops its elegantly spicy bouquet. A last filtration before bottling is advisable, to avoid any deposit in the bottle. The bouquet of cocoa wine improves considerably if it is left in the bottle for at least a year.



This description of cocoa by products would not be complete without mentioning that the hard cocoa pods can be processed to produce protein-rich animal feed. The pods are pre-crushed in a hammer mill and then dried in the sun. It is advisable subsequently to grind them into fine meal, to make it easier to mix with other materials such as maize. As the pods contain theobromine, a natural alkaloid, they should not be fed pure to livestock. Studies have shown that 10 per cent cocoa-pod meal mixed with other forage meal is nutritionally safe

By grinding cocoa pods into fragments and then composting them under a plastic sheet, a fertilizer can be produced which contains minerals, is rich in nitrogen and has nematocidal properties (kills the parasitic nematodes which attack roots). It is, therefore, possible to replace costly and toxic pesticides with low-cost, environmentally friendly products. Most households have the utensils and equipment needed to get more out of their cocoa harvest. It is simply a matter of using them for productive purposes, whether to meet their own needs, to earn a little extra money, or to generate continuous additional income.

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.

News Lines

We need your help with our readership survey ...


(BUROTROP) was initiated to strengthen research and development activities on coconut and oil palm and to further develop the co-ordination of interventions and exchange of information.

In 1991 BUROTROP and the African Association of Oil Palm Growers (AFOPDA) organized seminars in Tanzania and Cote d'Ivoire with the objective of identifying research and development priorities for oil palm and coconut. The interest and need for small and medium scale units were identified as a priority during these seminars and also the need for information by these units.

Lack of information on small and medium scale machinery on the market which can be used by small and medium-scale growers, entrepreneurs or groups of producers appeared among the major obstacles to the development of these crops. Hence BUROTROP is organising jointly with AFOPDA in December 1993 a seminar in Ghana whose objective is to sum-up current technologies and provide an occasion for manufacturers and users to meet.

With this in mind, they are planning to publish a bilingual directory (French/English ) on manufacturers and machinery, and would welcome information from suppliers and users.

Contact address: 17 rue de la Tour, 75116 Paris, France.

Netetou - a typical African condiment

Nere (Parkia biglobosa) is a leguminous tree that is found throughout Africa from the Gambia to Cameroon. While the fruit is consumed for its floury or sweet pulp it is the seeds, which after a lengthy preparation are made into a fermented condiment, that are of economic importance and form a major ingredient in African cooking. The method of production varies from a major ingredient in African cooking. The method of production varies from one region to another and the condiment is commonly found in African markets where it is known by different names: netetou in Senegal, sumbala in Mali and Guinea and dadawa or iru in Nigeria.


Tens of thousands of tons of netetou is eaten in the region and it is estimated that in northern Nigeria alone some 200,000 tons of seeds are collected each year for processing. Netetou has a strong aroma and is used to strengthen the flavour of sauces that accompany rice and sorghum dishes. A survey in Dakar showed its use in almost all the main recipes of Senegalese cuisine It is frequently associated with other flavouring agents, such as bouillon cubes which are produced industrially and have rapidly increasing sales in Africa. These commercial cubes fit perfectly in local recipes and are sold in small packets that cost 20 to 25 Fcfa (418 West African Fcfc is equal to £1 sterling).

Despite the serious competition from bouillon cubes; produced by large companies such as Maggi, who use radio and other forms of advertising to promote their product; netetou remains the veritable 'local cube' anchored in traditional food habits and popular with all classes. It has an advantage in that it can be divided into small pieces and sold at 10 Fcfa, a price affordable by all. In spite of its popularity however it appears that netetou will lose its market share if it does not adapt to the needs of consumers, particularly the urban middle class. As in the case of most traditional African products, there has been little research on netetou and a number of steps in its manufacture and marketing can be improved.


Most of the netetou sold in the markets of Dakar is produced in the lower Casamance region by the women of the area. The amounts produced have increased over the last 20 years. The activity allows the women to diversify, their income from one based on the cultivation of rice and peanuts in which rice production is decreasing and peanut prices are falling. A woman can expect to earn 12,000 to 15,000 Fcfa from each netetou production period which allows her to buy rice and other family essentials.

In the area of Fogny, which lies between the Casamance and Gambia rivers, production of netetou mainly takes place between December and June and at this time groups of up to 30 women come together to rent a traditional building for processing Production levels vary considerably from group to group and season to season. The women hire their labour to a middleman merchant who benefits from their work. Some groups can process up to 15 tons in a season

The nere seeds are delivered to the groups in 120 kg sacks by the merchant. After processing the seeds into neterou the same merchant buys the product for marketing in Dakar. The women receive 2500 Fcfa for each sack they process.

The first step in the production process consists of boiling the nere seeds for 12 to 24 hours in order to soften the outer husk After this treatment the husk is soft enough to allow it to be separated from the cotyledons. De-hulling is carried out in a pestle and mortar to which sand is added, the sand acting as an abrasive which helps to remove the hulls. The next step involves washing to separate the sand and hull. This is a very important stage and has a considerable effect on the quality of the final product The byproducts, sand and husks are used as compost or in building blocks. At this stage the cotyledons are firm and light brown in colour. It takes three hours to hull and wash 25 kg of seeds

The seeds are then re-boiled for up to three hours after which the water is strained off. They are then placed in jute or nylon sacks and allowed to ferment for 48 to 72 hours. During the fermentation the characteristics of netetou develop; pronounced flavour, strong odour and a brown colour. The product is then salted and partially dried to help in its preservation


The main bottleneck in the production of netetou is the de hulling stage. While hulling is long and very hard work the pre-boiling uses large amounts of fuel wood. The project, therefore, researched dry mechanical de-hulling as an alternative to the existing manual method. Mechanical de hulling would totally change the production process and avoid both preliminary boiling and de-hulling by pestle and mortar

Different prototype de-hullers have been constructed with the help of a small local engineering workshop. This assured an appropriate machine in terms of local capacities and facilities The programme is now at the point of having a locally built, powered de-huller with a capacity of 70-80 kg/hr and a 98 per cent hulling efficiency.


Simply- improving the netetou production and raising the productivity of the producers is not enough as the women still remain dependent on the merchants. A market study carried out in Senegal, in order to strengthen the power of women's groups, indicates that the women may be able to carry out the commercialization of the netetou they produce. In parallel a new marketing channel has been tested People born in Fogny who now live in Dakar have set up an organization called Jamooray, consisting of about 80 sellers. It is hoped, through the mutual confidence that exists between producers and sellers, to create a direct market chain for netetou. There have been other experiences of similar marketing networks for palm oil, dried fish and oysters using resident associations in Dakar over the last few years Conscions of the limitations of this approach the regional rural associations are trying to unite through the Co-ordinator of Rural Organizations of Bignona (CORD) and better marketing systems are developing due to the existence of a strong organizational movement in the producer groups

A survey of 250 households in Dakar regarding food consumption has given more detailed knowledge of the use of netetou and negative aspects that may reduce its consumption. The householders all criticized the poor hygienic conditions during both production and marketing. So all users wash the product, and in many cases pound it before using it

Netetou paste, powder and cubes packed in plastic film have now been market tested by householders. The results were very satisfactory and predict the possibility of successfully marketing this type of product. Marketing a product more suitable to the consumer will probably allow a relaunch of the consumption of this traditional product and provide greater incomes to the processors.

Book Lines

The following books are available from the IT Bookshop, 103-105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH, UK. If ordering by post please make cheques payable to IT Publications Ltd, adding 20 per cent for UK postage and 25 per cent for overseas postage.

Food Chain is most anxious to review books produced in developing countries. If you feel a particular book is useful, please let us know - even better send us a copy - costs will be re-imbursed.


P. Fellows, B. Axtell, Published by Transfer of Technology for Development (TOOL), Geneva, ISBN 90 7085728 6. Available from TOOL Publications, Sarphatistraat 650, 1018 AV Amsterdam Price Df1.29.50 or from IT Publications, 103-105 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4HH, UK. Price £10.50

While food processing still has the main objective of providing a safe nutritious diet in order to maintain health, other aspects, particularly the generation of wealth for the producer and seller, have become increasingly important. While in developed countries food processing is almost totally carried out in large, automated factories, small-scale food processing still remains a vitally important economic activity in the developing world.

This unique, well illustrated publication will assist the small and medium-scale food manufacturers in developing countries consider not only which packaging is the best for their product but also other related subjects. The whole package including its materials, label and shipping container should be considered as part of the overall business plan and not, as often happens, as an afterthought. The book is written for entrepreneurs who wish to increase their sales end competitiveness by improving their business. It will also be of interest to food research institutions, NGOs, development workers and extension workers who are involved in projects to improve the small food processing industry sector.


V. Hidellage, P. Fellows, available free from the Technical Enquiry Unit, IT, Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HT, UK or from CTA, Postbus 380, 67000A Wageningen, Netherlands.

A new booklet that describes safe food handling and hygienic practices for food production has been produced by IT. The pictorial format of the booklet is ideal for training material and a series of posters is being produced which will be suitable for training in any language.


Cash crops or food source? The price of agricultural success

Desiree Chankun was a volunteer with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). She was involved with helping women's groups with small scale food processing in the northern regions of Thailand and tells us about initial problems of an opium substitution campaign. It must be emphasised however, that despite initial problems, the project has been highly praised for its success in providing a cash crop alternative to opium.


The project was set up fifteen years ago and supplies agricultural advice and training via extension workers to hilltribe villagers. The most successful crops have proved to be temperate crops and salad vegetables.

The hilltribe villagers do not have much experience of cash cropping and are traditionally forest gatherers. Some hilltribe groups hunt for their main source of protein. Those that are subsistence farmers may keep one or two animals. In certain periods of the year there is a shortage of food and families rely for food on the surplus cash crops.

There have been several problems caused by the introduction of cash crops which require fertilizers and pesticides. Cash is required or a long term loan needed. The revenue from the crop is essential to cover the growing costs. The crops may fail through water shortage or from adverse conditions.

Pesticides had been heavily used in the hope of crop success and lack of understanding had led to the misuse of pesticides and fungicides. If the spraying of the crops is not done properly it may lead to water contamination, and residues may be left on the crops if insufficient time is given between the last spray and harvesting.


The choice of crop is also very important. One example of lack of understanding of the local community and market can be seen by the introduction of kidney beans to the region. The main market of the crop is Thailand and kidney beans are not traditionally eaten in the Thai diet except sometimes as part of a dessert. In the season of low food supplies, many villagers boiled kidney beans unaware that insufficient cooking leaves behind toxins which cause sickness and vomiting. The effect was quite adverse, especially to young children who are already undernourished and susceptible to disease. It was important that the extension workers were shown how to boil the kidney beans sufficiently. This problem is still not resolved since cooking in the hilltribe villages takes place over an open wood fire and the time required for adequate cooking of the kidney beans under these conditions would require too much firewood.


The introduction of new and different crops should be planned and designed with consideration to the effect on the community. Agricultural extension projects in rural areas should consider factors such as the susceptibility of the crop, problems associated with intensive farming, whether the villagers are able to devote time cultivating such crops, and the reliance on pesticides and fertilizers. The wider implications for edible cash crops are that they should be both marketable and of nutritional value especially in areas of malnutrition. Complementary nutritional education and food preparation is also important if the agricultural project is to be of maximum benefit to the rural community.

How to make channa and sondesh

Sondesh are popular sweetmeats made from milk solids in Bangladesh. Most of tire popular sondeshes vary not only in shape but also in composition and taste. New types, like chocolate coated sondesh, are emerging all the time. Most famous mishti (sweetmeat) shops have their own specialty, some of them are novel in presentation and taste.

1 kg channa (see box)
300 - 500g sugar
Cardamom (optional)
Food colouring (turmeric is widely used)
Flavouring (optional)

Karahi (round bottomed metal pan) for cooking.
Wooden tray for kneading and mixing
Oven (smokeless is preferred).
Moulds for creating desired size and shape.
Stainless steel knife.
Tray for setting sondesh.



· Mix the sugar (preferably ground) with the channa and knead until it becomes smooth.
· Transfer the kneaded mixture into a karahi and heat on a slow fire. Stir continuously to prevent scorching.
· Cook until the mixture becomes sticky and portions taken from it can easily be formed into a ball. Flavouring (such as crushed cardamom) may be added at this stage. Spread the mixture onto a tray coated with ghee or oil and allow to cool and set.
· Cut or mould the cooled sondesh into the desired size and shape.




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