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Capacity building on food safety and quality for African partners

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“Creating opportunities for the food processing sector in African countries will promote agribusiness development for the benefit of smallholder farmers. I am seeing the need for the implementation of appropriate food quality standards and enhancing the technical skills of laboratory personnel in order to leverage on the potential of the agribusiness and food processing sector in Africa,” said Dr William D Dar, ICRISAT Director General.

The Director General expressed these views at the inaugural program of the advanced training on “Analytical Techniques and ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 for Food Testing Laboratory Personnel from African Countries” under the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) II initiative.

The capacity building program exposed the participants to laboratory accreditation (ISO/IEC 17025:2005), food safety and regulatory standards, as well as on rules and regulations in food industry and their implications with respect to international trade barriers. A five day hands-on training on different analytical aspects of food testing was also arranged at one of the most reputed ISO17025: 2005 accredited food testing laboratories in India – the National Collateral Management Services Ltd (NCML), Hyderabad. There were 24 participants from across 10 countries of the African continent.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Kiran Puri, Joint Secretary (Finance), Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Government of India, and the Chief Guest for the occasion, elaborated on the importance of this training program in enhancing food testing capabilities of the respective African countries.

Dr Kiran Sharma, CEO, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP), ICRISAT, emphasized that the “training activities complement capacity building efforts towards the operationalization of the Food Testing Laboratories (FTLs) as well as the Food Processing Business Incubators (FPBICs) being established by AIP-ICRISAT in Africa.”

“During the recent visits by the ICRISAT team to the African partner countries where we are implementing five FTLs under IAFS II, it was identified that laboratory accreditation (ISO/IEC 17025:2005), hands on analytical training, trouble shooting, instrument maintenance, and servicing were the areas that need to be strengthened,” said Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, COO, NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) Program, AIP, in explaining the training program design.

Speaking at the valedictory function on 18 March, Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, Strategic Marketing and Communication, ICRISAT, said “With this training program for food testing laboratory personnel from African countries, we have achieved another important milestone towards our commitment to boost India-Africa partnerships. Building new leaders in Africa is important and these participants are some of the new leaders for African development.”

As part of the feedback on the training program, Mr Robert Kelly Salati from Zambia said: “The trainers inspired us to think critically. We not only learnt more skills but better ways of thinking. Most of the food testing laboratories in Africa have not been accredited and so this training will be helpful to lead us to changing this. This will help us develop Africa”.

Ms Kemi Oladipo from Nigeria in her feedback said “We learnt a lot on how to use equipment and we learnt better scientific practices. Not only did we learn the technical part of the process and analysis, but we were also able to understand the reasoning behind the analysis. It was important to understand why we undertake these practices. We need to go back to our countries and conduct in-house training to pass on our new knowledge”.

The two-week training program held on 3-18 March at the ICRISAT headquarters was organized by the NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) Program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP).