By George Harris & Robin Dopoe, Jr.
Two factors contributing to the alarming rate of spoilage of fresh farm produce are the lack of affordable and reliable electricity (i.e. for refrigeration) and the knowledge, skills and tools to add value to fresh produce via preservation and processing methods.
Joe Togba, founder of the Papé Natural Foods Company (PNFC) based in Margibi County, is addressing the latter challenge by figuring out how to keep vegetable and medicinal leaves preserved for a long period of time.
In an interview with the Daily Observer at a one day vegetable preservation event organized by Grow-Liberia in partnership with Evelyn’s Restaurant, Togba said he preserves vegetable and medicinal leaves and earns an income for himself and co-workers in the process.
The event, a “taste test” to determine if there was any remarkable difference between fresh greens and preserved greens, was organized to encourage the preservation of vegetable leaves through dehydration processes. “By washing, drying and grinding organically grown vegetables and medicinal leaves that we purchase from our contracted farmers, we are able to provide vegetable leaves to our clients, from which they can use just what is sufficient for them and still have more left for another time,” said Togba. “I believe that our method helps to reduce vegetable and medicinal leaves spoilage.”
According to Togba, PNFC has been around for two years, and was established as a result of the continuous guidance and encouragement Togba received from the older men he associated with as a teen. The young natural foods company has a four-team staff, three females and a male, with several contractors. The company takes vegetables and medicinal leaves from farmers who organically grow them in the Margibi area. The Papé Natural Foods Company currently produces packaged moringa leaf powder, palava sauce leaf powder, and cassava leaf powder. The small company supplies Evelyn Restaurant, ERA, Monoprix, and Abi Jaoudi, now called Harbel Supermarket.
Despite the company’s positive prospects for the future, the Papé Natural Food Company CEO told the Daily Observer that he is affected by high interest rates on bank loans. Togba said that his company’s aim is to produce the finest foods, and in the future, beverages, while contributing to reducing unemployment and help in the development of rural farmers.