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Rutgers University Receives Grant from USAID for Natural Products Development in Africa
Rutgers University Receives Grant from USAID for Natural Products Development in Africa

Rutgers University received a new contract award to support natural products research and development in Africa. This new program was awarded in October 2004 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Office of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade (EGAT/AG), in support of its global economic development programs, specifically, the Partnership for Food and Industry Development. The programs at Rutgers receiving the grant are New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program and the Food Policy Institute.

USAID has three such global programs, one in fruits and vegetables, a second in dairy, livestock and fish, and now a third to focus on natural products. The $2.5 million, 5-year project is designed to support partnerships that contribute to the economic growth of client countries by mobilizing expertise in the private and public sectors to add value, as well as meet safety and quality standards, to the production of food products for the respective client countries’ domestic and international markets. The new Rutgers program, “Partnership For Sustainable Economic Growth in Africa Through Natural Products Development (PFID/NP),” builds upon the Agri-Business in Sustainable African Plant Products Program (ASNAPP) and will focus its initial core activities in both Western Africa (Ghana and Senegal) and Southern Africa (South Africa and Zambia), with a satellite program in Rwanda. These agribusiness partnerships will be based on the development of local, regional, and international trade in natural products, based upon the regions’ unique ethnic/traditional natural products (which include teas, spices and flavorings, aromatic oils, medicinal plants, and plant-based cosmetic ingredients) that have scientifically verifiable functional properties and are in market demand.

The Rutgers and ASNAPP program uses a scientifically-based and market-driven model that seeks to develop and strengthen successful private and public partnerships in sustainable economic growth of sub-Saharan African natural plant products.

The objectives within the five-year project period include many significant initiatives to improve the economic health and viability of the natural products sectors in each country:

1.Increase the number of natural plant product producers/farmers.
2.Develop botanical products for domestic and international markets.
3.Increase the number of people employed in the natural product sector.
4.Diversify the economy through new/improved natural plant products.
5.Increase economic growth within the natural product sector.
6.Increase and diversify family/farmers/ production income.
7.Increase the number of sustainable natural plant products producers/companies.
8.Increase the number of science-based, natural plant products traded regionally and exported from Africa.
9.Increase the use of science-guided marketing of natural plant products as a vehicle to increase sustainable trade.
10.Establish and improve the necessary domestic quality control and quality assurance measures, facilities safety and sanitation, Good Agricultural Practices, and Good Manufacturing Practices by producers and manufacturers of value-added products that are exported and traded in the natural products sector.

The program is being lead by Professor James E. Simon, PhD, Professor and Director of the New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program at Rutgers. Prof. Simon was formerly a Professor of Horticulture and co-founder of Center for New Crops and Plant Products in the Department of Horticulture at Purdue University. In addition to many of his academic and international activities, Prof. Simon is also a member of the American Botanical Council’s Advisory Board.

According to Prof. Simon, “The uniqueness of this new program relative to the herbal products industry is that it provides a contractual mechanism for the USAID to support new programs in natural products in any of the client countries in which USAID operates, thus providing for the first time an efficient vehicle to establish sustainable development programs in natural plant products from the bush to the final product with a focus on quality, science, community development and trade” (written communication to M. Blumenthal, December 6, 2004).

The new project builds directly on the ASNAPP model and has led to the successful introduction of several new African products into regional trade in Africa as well as into the European and American markets. Two of the ASNAPP products, Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis [Burm. f.] R. Dahlgren, Fabaceae) and the Haarlem Honeybush iced tea (from Cyclopia intermedia E. Meyer, Fabaceae) produced by Honest Tea®, have been recognized for their excellence, quality, and/or uniqueness by Gourmet Retailer magazine at the 2004 Fancy Food Show in New York City and by Men’s Health magazine as one of the best new beverages. The project intends to strengthen and expand the project management team’s initial work in the natural products sector and extend the team’s models of commercialization into West and Southern Africa. It also will create expanded partnerships among American and African universities, African government agencies and, in particular, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs, aka nonprofit organizations) in a unique and synergistic manner. These partnerships include Rutgers University (USA) via the New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program, Food Policy Institute, Food Innovation Center, and the Center for Advanced Food Technology—all at Rutgers; Alcorn State University in Mississippi; and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. African partners include ASNAPP programs in West Africa (Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal), East Africa (Kigali, Rwanda), and Southern Africa (Stellenbosch, South Africa and Lusaka, Zambia), in concert with their associated universities: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), Stellenbosch University (South Africa), the National University of Rwanda (Rwanda), and the University of Zambia (Zambia). The program also includes numerous NGO and private sector (i.e., commercial businesses) communities in Africa, along with businesses in the United States.

In addition to Prof. Simon, others involved in running the new project are Ramu Govindasamy, PhD and Associate Professor; Mr. Dan Acquaye; and H. Rodolfo Juliani, PhD (Research Associate), with activities coordinated through the Rutgers New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program and the Food Policy Institute, in concert with ASNAPP-Africa and ASNAPP-USA. Further information is available from Prof. Simon or Prof. Govindasamy (Tel: 732-932-9711 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 732-932-9711end_of_the_skype_highlighting, ext. 355; e-mail: or Additional information on ASNAPP is available at and by viewing the article on page 69 of this issue which reports on the ASNAPP conference held in Senegal in August 2004.

—Mark Blumenthal


New USAID Funded Project Supports the Natural Products Sector in Africa [Press Release]. Rutgers University; December 4, 2004.