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Multidisciplinary study of the valorisation of the assai (Euterpe oleracea) fruit under the varzea system (Pará, Brazil)

Hervé ROGEZ researcher laureate


°1968 Belgium
Engineer in chemistry and agricultural industries, 1992

Etude pluridisciplinaire de la valorisation des fruits de l'açayer (Euterpe oleracea) en système varzea (Pará, Brésil)

The study was carried out in a context dominated by the fact that a very popular drink extracted from the assai (Euterpe oleracea) fruit was still traditionally prepared in poor sanitary conditions resulting in low profit for the producers. Indeed, the fruits were known to be strongly contaminated by a large variety of yeasts, moulds and bacteria limiting the conservation of fresh juice to a few hours after its preparation. In addition to this fact, socio-economic studies and quality standards for the drink were almost inexistent, thus constituting a serious bottleneck for the extended trade of the juice. Moreover, the composition of the juice was unknown, though it was consumed in an environment with a population suffering from malnutrition. Assai is recognized as the most productive palm of the Brazilian Amazonian ecosystem. 
The study has identified the critical points of the fruit extract contamination. This has led to an optimised manufacturing process of assai fruits (washing, sulfating and blanching) and of the extracted juice (freezing and pasteurising). Finally, the resulting product was able to meet international quality standards, thus allowing a higher price to be paid to the assai fruit during the harvesting high season. 
In conclusion, the study has singularly met important challenges of research in agriculture and applied biological sciences for development, namely the effective integration of scientific knowledge and socio-economic issues in improving the food processing technology for a supply of controlled quality, which, in return, will guarantee an attractive and sustainable income for the farmer. Tackling such an issue requires huge multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, preferably participatory, research efforts. In fact, on the one hand we need detailed scientific knowledge of the factors affecting the quality of a processed agricultural product. On the other hand, the scientific knowledge must be translated into everyday farming practice and into food processing with all social, cultural, and economic problems involved. Consequently, the study outcomes have been handed over to the association of producers through the publication of appropriate popularizing documents in Portuguese.  

report by Dr. Ir. Moussa Badji, Co-ordinator METAFRO INFOSYS, Africa Museum, Tervuren, Belgium