For many centuries, people have used the technique of fermentation to prepare foods. Examples are fermented maize in Ghana, fermented legumes in Asia and fermented millet porridge in East Africa. This kind of fermentation does not produce alcohol.

Food is usually fermented for two days before use. During fermentation, bacteria that are naturally present in some foods cause a simple chemical change to take place. This makes the food taste slightly sour and improves the taste. It also means that germs which cause diarrhoea cannot grow so easily in the food. Mothers often have no time to prepare fresh food for each meal for young children. Giving them previously cooked food can result in infections and diarrhoea. However, when fermented food is used, the risk of infections and diarrhoea is greatly reduced. Fermentation also makes the food easier to digest and makes it easier for the body to use the iron in the food.

Many people prefer the taste of fermented foods. However, health workers may discourage their use. They often believe these are old fashioned and unhelpful foods. However, fermentation is a traditional process which is still of great value.

Discussion

  • Is it common for mothers in our local area to cook one meal a day and prepare enough food so the leftover food can be used for the rest of the day? Why is this?
  • Do people in our area eat fermented foods? What are the names of these foods?
  • How often do children in our community get diarrhoea? What do mothers think about using fermented food for young children?
  • If the process of fermentation is allowed to continue for more than two or three days, the food will become too acid to eat. How long do people traditionally allow food to ferment in our area? What happens to any fermented food that is left for more than two days?
  • Are there any ways in which we could encourage the use of fermented foods?