Formulating Value Chains for Orphan Crops in Africa

Formulating Value Chains for Orphan Crops in Africa


Cultivars that emerged during the Green Revolution focused on increasing yield, primarily of a few staple crops, that together with changes in farming systems (e.g. artificial fertilizer applications) did much to ensure adequate supply of affordable calories. This original strategy has, however, been at the expense of research into sustainable yield improvement and improved environmental resilience of orphan crops (e.g. teff, finger millet, yam, roots and tubers that are regionally important but not world traded and receive no attention from researchers). The current strategy regarding orphan crops focuses on genetic improvement to increase resilience to climate change and to improve productivity, under the assumption that increased diversity of crop species sown and harvested implies a greater diversity of consumption. However, this is not the case in rural or urban areas. The purpose of this project is to more effectively bridge current supply-side research on orphan crops with attitudes from consumers, to help have an impact on poverty, health, sustainable growth and food security in developing countries. This will be done by examining the entire supply chain and by multidisciplinary interaction of social, crop and food scientists who will seek to reformulate popular processed foods using orphan crop ingredients. 

Extrusion and shape formulation during the manufacture of pasta (Source:Shutterstock)


Targeted orphan crops will be selected early on in the project based on existing demand and technical information as well as engagement and discussion with potential food processors. Research will be broken down into three interrelated work areas:(1) Supply chain analysis (including demand); (2) Options for development of new ingredients and foods based on orphan crops; and (3) Identification of solutions to production constraints of prioritised orphan crops.

Supply chain analysis (including demand analysis) will contribute:

  • exploring the role that orphan crops play in Sub-Saharan African diets using available household surveys;
  • analysing the use of orphan crops as ingredients in new products in Sub-Saharan African markets;
  • analysing the structure of particular supply chains associated with the products and ingredients of prioritised orphan crops; and
  • providing an ex-ante analysis of the impact that the creation of the value chains may have.

The food science component will proceed in two stages:

  1. The project will link the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) with food processing companies in Sub-Saharan Africa . In discussion together with the results of the demand analysis- products that are suitable for reformulation selected orphan crops ingredients will be identified;
  2. ECFP will perform experiments in its laboratories in Edinburgh to identify ingredients that have promising physical characteristics for food manufacture e.g. stability, ease of extrusion and good texture, using flours from orphan crops rather than from staples such as wheat.

The crop science component will:

  • explore solutions to identified barriers to the efficient production of the selected orphan crops. A timeframe for screening crops for yield and quality improvements, including processing quality for food production, will also be published as a project technical note.
  • analyse climatic and growing factors limiting production in these high potential orphan crops will be identified in order to integrate existing knowledge of how crop choice and agronomics affect grain quality for processing and end use.
  • study based on evidence from local or other published sources on traits how to  maximise crop productivity and increase crop resilience to increasing climatic variability, including pests and diseases.

Expected impact

This research focuses on developing sustainable efficient food value chains for orphan crops that provide products that target specific local demand from urban and rural areas. This is done through developing food products and ingredients based on them and studying the best way of operating their supply chains. Therefore, the direct beneficiaries from the research are those actors that either are already part of - or have the potential in the future to assemble - orphan crop value chains. The creation of these chains has multiplicative positive upstream and downstream effects.

The research results will support African populations' access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food products for a healthy life, whilst maintaining a healthy environment under an increasing demand for food due to growing populations, urbanisation and changing diets. It is expected that the project will contribute to support UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ways indicated in the Case for Support.




  • Dawson, I. K., Powell, W., Hendre, P., Bančič, J., Hickey, J. M., Kindt, R., Hoad, S., Hale, I. and Jamnadass, R. (2019). The role of genetics in mainstreaming the production of new and orphan crops to diversify food systems and support human nutrition. New Phytologist. Full text.

Working Papers

  • Dawson IK, Hendre P, Powell W, Sila D, McMullin S, Simons T, Revoredo-Giha C, Odeny DA, Barnes AP, Graudal L, Watson CA, Hoad S, Burnett F, Muchugi A, Roshetko JM, Hale, IL, Van Deynze A, Mayes S, Kindt R, Prabhu R, Cheng S, Xu X, Guarino L, Shapiro H, Ramni, Jamnadass R. 2018. Supporting human nutrition in Africa through the integration of new and orphan crops into food systems: placing the work of the African Orphan Crops Consortium in context. ICRAF Working Paper No 276. Nairobi, World Agroforestry Centre. Full text.
  • Revoredo-Giha, C, Akaichi, F and Toma, L 2018.  Exploring the effects of increasing underutilized crops on consumers’ diets: The case of millet in Uganda. SRUC Working paper. Full text.
  • Dawson, I. et al. 2019. Breeders’ views on new and orphan crop production in Africa: a survey of constraints and opportunities. SRUC/ICRAF Working paper. Full text
  • Faucher, M. and Revoredo-Giha, C. 2019. Rediscovering Millet and Sorghum: The Implications of Expanding Orphan Crops in the Malawian Diet. SRUC Working paper. Full text
  • Akaichi, F. and Revoredo-Giha, C 2019.  Demand for orphan crops in Tanzania and prospects. SRUC Working paper. 
  • Revoredo-Giha, C. and Akaichi, F.  2019.  Demand elasticities for orphan crops in Kenya. SRUC Working paper. Full text
  • Akaichi, F. and Revoredo-Giha, C 2019.  Willingness to pay for orphan crops porridge in Kenya. SRUC Working paper. 

Nairobi Workshop (June 2018)

  • Revoredo-Giha, C, Burnett, F. and Wood, T 2018.  Formulating Value Chains for Orphan Crops in Africa. SRUC/University of Edinburgh presentation. Full text
  • Akaichi, F. 2018.  Consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay . SRUC presentation. Full text
  • Silva A. and Wood, T.  2018.  Food science work of the project. University of Edinburgh presentation. Full text
  • Jamnadass, R. 2018. World Agroforestry Centre and African Orphan Crops Consortium.ICRAF presentation Full text
  • McMullin, S. et al. 2018.  Diversifying landscapes and diets with nutritious foods for better nutrition. ICRAF presentation. Full text
  • Dawson, I et al. 2018.  Breeders’ survey on new and orphan crops. SRUC/ICRAF Presentation. Full text


  • Dataset for Tanzanian analysis. 
  • Dataset for analysis of willingness to pay for millet porridge. 
  • Dataset for the analysis of trade and consumption in Sub Saharan Africa. Full text

Interviews to stakeholders (confidential)

  • Revoredo-Giha, C, Akaichi, F, Silva, A., Bancic, J. and  Sila, D. 2018.  Visits to mills in Nairobi. SRUC/University of Edinburgh notes. 
  • Revoredo-Giha, C, Akaichi, F Silva, A., Bancic, J. 2018.  Visit to Rose Mutuku's firm (trader on millet). SRUC/University of Edinburgh notes. 



  • Pictures from the visit to Nairobi, June 2018

Contact details

Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha
Project coordinator
Land Economy, Environment and Rural Society Research Group,
SRUC, King’s Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH10 4QU
Tel: 44-(0)131-535 4344