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Traditional fermented food and beverages for improved livelihoods

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It is believed that fermented foods and beverages play an important role in people’s diet worldwide. Whether it originated from plants or animals, fermented foods and beverages is a great source of nutrients and help in health maintenance and disease prevention.

Fermented foods are food produced or preserved through microorganisms. Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts are the major microorganisms associated with traditional fermented foods.

There are different ways of preparing traditional foods and beverages from every region. Some of them can be fried, boiled, candied, or mixed with curries, stews, side dishes, pickles, confectionery, salads, soups, and desserts. They can be in different forms such as pastes, seasonings, condiments, masticators, and even colorants. Fermented drinks can also be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

There are many benefits of traditional fermented food and beverages. It is said that many of the fermented products from different ethnic groups have therapeutic values. Adding traditional fermented food and beverages to your meals will help in digestion because it will boost the levels of beneficial bacteria in your bowels. Eating a small portion on a very regular basis preferably once or twice with meals is ideal for your health.

Kefir, a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains which originated in North Caucasus Mountains, has beneficial micro-organisms that provide immunity which is good for patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer.

On the other hand, Kimchi, traditional fermented vegetables from Korean which is used as a side dish, has a high concentration of dietary fiber that lowers calories and is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, iron vitamin C and carotene.

Other fermented foods and drinks include the following:


    Pickled cucumbers

    Pickled garlic

    Pickled beets

    Pickled radish

    Pickled corn relish




    Soy sauce

    Fermented tofu

    Naturally fermented and unpasteurized beers

According to the UNFAO, traditional fermented foods and drinks have a huge market potential. Fermentation as an enterprise offers many opportunities. These products have reduced perishability that extends its shelf life which is an advantage to both sellers and consumers.  There is a high demand for fermented products, especially during particular social and cultural events. Fermented products have a higher value compared to other foods because they are regarded as delicacies. Fermented products also provide convenience since these products do not require refrigeration which is especially important to people living in hot and humid areas to reduce food spoilage.

Small-scale fermentation technologies contribute substantially to food security and nutrition, especially in regions that are prone to food shortages. Fermented products also reduce the dependency of rural and urban populations on food importation, and allow farmers to sell their own raw materials locally. These are just some of the economic and social benefit of applying small-scale fermentation in food preservation which contributes    to    sustainable development.

Furthermore, there are many examples of fermentation by-products which are used as a safe nutritional supplement livestock that further strengthens the livelihood system such as “brewer’s grains” and dried yeast.

Moreover, traditional and small-scale fermentation enterprises are known to have a good employment record, especially in remote areas with limited access to sophisticated equipment. For instance, more than 60 percent of the workforce is employed in the small-scale food processing sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the increased popularity of fermented products, small-scale enterprises have the capacity of generating more employment options.

In conclusion, we can say that fermentation enterprise offers a range of diverse products to consumers and allows more opportunities for farmers to have improved livelihoods. Traditional fermentation methods  and  preservation  can be commercialized  and food productivity  can  be  maximized  with the support and help of various governing  bodies  and  institutes.

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