2. Congo: Milk from pumpkin seeds (Spore, Syfia, La Semaine Africaine)

July 19, 2010
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Joséphine Enoce Bouanga walks around her two-room house in a suburb of Pointe-Noire, in the Republic of the Congo. Cassava, sorrel and plantains thrive outside in her garden. Her home is also the site of an innovative small-scale business named Enoce Bio. Mrs. Bouanga, a rural development engineer, set up her company in 2006.

Normally, people eat the flesh of pumpkins and squashes and throw away the seeds. Mrs. Bouanga believes this is a waste. Squashes are commonly grown in Congo. After studying the nutritional value of squashes, and taking a food processing course, she experimented with making milk from pumpkin seeds. She says the drink is full of nutrients. She also believes it tastes better than soya milk.

In 2008, she exhibited her products at the national fair. The Pointe-Noire Industrial Association donated space on their stand. This association supports small and medium-sized enterprises. Didier Mavouenzela Sylvester is president of the association. He says, “Josephine promotes local products and creates opportunities for farmers who grow squash, a product linked to our culture.” She buys seeds from farmers in Bouenza and Lékoumou, in southern Congo.

In 2008, Mrs. Bouanga obtained a patent from the African Intellectual Property Organization for making milk from pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin seeds are shelled by hand. Mrs. Bouanga then soaks and grinds the seeds. She filters the juice and bottles it. Mrs. Bouanga avoids explaining the details of the process to protect her patent.

Mrs. Bouanga employs a number of staff. The business also makes other products, including nutritional flour made from soya bean and maize, and garlic syrup. “My products do not contain chemical additives. They can be stored between six and twelve months,” she says.

In 2009, she met Rodolphe Adada, the Minister for Industry. He told her “Madame, you are a gold mine without knowing it.” These encouraging words gave her the strength to continue developing her enterprise. There are few agro-processing businesses in Congo. Mrs. Bouanga’s production capacity is limited. But she is full of ideas. She is already planning to produce a flour made from plantain as an infant food.