Engineering process design for improved fortified flour production in Rwanda

Region: Rwanda

The Challenge

Providing nutritious foods for mothers and children

Despite this century’s advancements in maternal and infant care, women and children around the globe continue to suffer from poor health as a result of acute maternal malnutrition (USAID, 2018). For many women, particularly those living in developing countries, limited access to nutritious foods is a disadvantage caused by gender discrimination, lack of financial resources, and limited transportation (U.N. Women, n.d.). These hindrances lead to a depressed intake of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly those critical for infant development such as vitamin A, folic acid, and iron (U.N. Women, n.d.). As a result, children are frequently born with severe micronutrient deficiencies that hinder both physiological and psychological development (Attanasio et al, 2018).

Nearly one half of all deaths in children under the age of five can be attributed to undernutrition. This is equivalent to the loss of 3 million young lives per year (UNICEF, 2018). In particular, countries like Rwanda are at increased risk of heightened malnutrition rates among children due to rapid population growth and strains on natural resources. Although the nation has made significant improvements in childhood mortality in the last decade, the latest comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis (CFSVA) indicates a geographic nutritional divide. Child malnutrition still affects rural areas at a rate of 40% in comparison to 27% in urban areas. As a result, rural children are especially affected by stunting and poor cognitive development.

Rwandans – of whom 80% are involved in agriculture - are also affected by significant post-harvest losses. These losses occur at every stage – harvest, transport, processing, and storage. Most commonly, these losses are the product of inadequate extension services for farmer capacity building, lack of proper storage/packaging for food products, insufficient/absence of on-farm drying and storage and poor market access. Limited access to financing for investments in small and medium processing services is also a challenge.

 Attanasio, O., Baker-Henningham, H., Bernal, R., Meghir, C., Pineda, D. and Rubio-Codina, M. (2018). Early stimulation and nutrition: The impacts of a scalable intervention. National Bureau of Economic Research

U.N. Women (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being. United Nations. Retrieved from

USAID. (2018) Kenya: Nutrition profile. United States Agency for International Development. Retrieved from

WFP, FAO, & UNICEF. (2013). Role of food security and nutrition interventions in empowering women. Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund, 67–71.


The Purdue Innovation

Design sustainable and affordable food operations for processing local produce. 

With help from the Okos lab, a new low-cost, enhanced processing system will be developed to improve the quality and throughput capacity of the Ingabeyacu current design. This will include the integration of fermentation, extrusion, and drying methods to improve bioavailability and shelf life of the final porridge product. A computational model for predicting product nutrition will be developed in parallel to provide more accurate dietary information to consumers. Ultimately, this innovation also seeks to incorporate community engagement with the local food system through use of a community café. Research methods for developing more nutritious, but also consumer-acceptable products will be studied and coincide with community feedback and learning to ensure more successful products for the future.


  1. Develop improvements to Ingabeyacu fortified flour recipe via alternative and improved food processing methods such as extrusion with the goal to reduce childhood and maternal malnutrition in Busogo sector.
  2. Develop predictive computational modeling techniques to improve nutritional characterization of fortified flour.
  3. Develop processing methods to utilize locally grown vegetables as natural fortification with the goal to reduce post-harvest losses in Busogo sector and surrounding northwest territory.
  4. Promote the use of the Ingabeyacu community café to increase community capacity and engagement for improved understanding of nutrition and health.

The Partners

Ingabeyacu LLC. Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Busogo 2 Community Sector Health Center, and University of Rwanda, College of Agriculture Science and Veterinary Medicine

  • Dr. Martin Okos, PhD, Professor Agricultural and Biological Engineering
  • Margaret Hegwood, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Elyse Habumukiza, CEO and Founder of Ingabeyacu LLC.