This is discussion about Small-Scale Fortification: Innovative Technology for the Developing World.
Flour fortification is proving to be a good way to address micronutrient deficiencies. The challenge lies in the implementation. You approach this challenge well, with low-cost equipment and training provided to the millers. However, I would like to know more about how you intend to convince them that this extra effort is worthwhile--will you offer monetary compensation? Some other benefit? And have you thought about monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that the millers are in fact doing what they say they are doing, and following proper procedure? In the event that there is resistance in the population who will be consuming the fortified products, have you thought about public information campaigns to educate people about nutrients?
Those are all great questions, thank you. Indeed one of the key issues is the ability to have an enduring business model. We think about it a lot since we've been in this area for 10+ years and truly understand its importance. First of all, I do not think there will be a one-size-fits-all solution to your questions. I think it will vary from country to country, maybe even from region to region. What I do know is that most small millers don't need an incentive. From our experience, we found that most millers want to do the right thing, particularly at this small-scale level. As long as they are not losing money, they share a desire to help their village and their families as it is often the same mill where they get their own products from. In pilot projects, we've yet to find a miller that needed a monetary incentive to put vitamins and minerals in their product. But, they don't want to lose money, either. So the price of the premix either needs to pass to the consumer (which ends up being extremely minimal) or have an external subsidy.
Notwithstanding the need for multiple solutions, it remains quite compelling. A business model that, for example, reaches a million kids is pretty good.
As for monitoring, yes that's also an important issue. But the technology we're working on has the electronics to monitor what is happening at the mill. Plus, as part of the business model, we are trying to create processes where the consumer can see the fortification take place.
In terms of public education campaigns, yes, this is essential and is usually taken on by a local NGO working in the area that is known and trusted. It's definitely a crucial point to let the community know what is being added to their food, why, and what it does (and does not) do.
I hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if you have others.
Is there a strong enough financial incentive for corporations to buy you out to gain access to new markets?
What role do you see legislation playing in this initiative?
The critical financial incentive is between the very small miller and the consumer. The purpose of our project is to establish the economic and distribution process to create these long term incentives. Our work in Nepal has demonstrated that mothers are very willing to pay more for healthier food, and the millers are equally willing to fortify their flour if one of two things occur: a) it does not degrade their ability to make a profit; b) it adds value to their product and hence demand.
Unlike large scale fortification, we do not see a legislative role, currently, with small scale fortification. Our experience has been that at the very small scale level, a country can pass laws, but enforcement is so complex that nothing realistically comes of it. Best to create a chain of sustainable free-market incentives and not rely on the hand of government.
We really appreciate that this is a well thought out, simple and straight forward initiative. We would really like to hear more about why you have decided not to transfer this technology on a whole to parts of the developing world. There’s on-going NGO involvement, but is there a way the technology could be transferred over, so that you can build local capacity? Would you mind providing more of a discussion on the nutritional data as well? We really enjoyed reading your initiative and look forward to your response! Please remember to filter any additional comments back into your entry form. Thanks!
- Naveen Shakir, Ashoka’s Changemakers
Thank you for your questions. The technology is 100% "open source" -- we want it available for anyone and everyone with no restrictions. But its not yet ready for prime time. That's the purpose of the grant, really. To get the kinks worked out, blueprints and documentation in order, sourcing identified, etc. with the hope that it can be provided as needed and/or accessed by anyone and built locally. Our goal is for it to be used by as many people as possible.
Everything that the local NGO is doing can be done locally if the community choses to do so. For example, if a miller decided to include the technology to fortify, he can educate his customers and/or the community on what he is doing and why. The technology is simple enough that instructions should provide what is needed in order to accurately operate and monitor the fortification.
Regarding your question about nutritional data, I am not exactly sure what you would like to see? Currently, we are using in-country nutritional deficiency data (often through DHS surveys) and current nutrition initiatives (for example, if there is a supplementation program already going on or other nutrition interventions) in order to determine greatest micronutrient need taking into account other sources of nutrients or anti-nutrients, as may be the case.
I hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if and how I can clarify.
On January 18, 2010 the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers Improved Nutrition: Solutions through Innovation competition and would like to pass on the following feedback (listed below) for your entry. Thank you for applying and for your hard work in the field. We are excited to archive your entry to serve as a leading solution for the worldwide community of innovators. We wish you continued luck with your innovative, sustainable, and socially impactful initiatives.
All the best, The Changemakers Team
“This initiative seems very interesting to me. It has a lot of potential and is something that really needs to be applied to the developing world. It seems to be quite a sustainable initiative as well. While it has been a successful model in Nepal, how are they planning on making this work in Haiti? They have not identified local partners in Haiti, and this may be critical to the success of the initiative. Also, I’m curious to learn about why they are not planning on having an impact on public policy? Their participation in the political realm may help contribute to financial sustainability.”
- Changemakers Improved Nutrition: Solutions through Innovation Judges
In Haiti, our local partner is Partners in Health (www.pih.org) and we agree that working through local partners will be critical to long term, sustainable, success. As far as public policy is concerned, we agree that this is a component of the overall solution, but we believe that after successful implementation in the pilot program, we will be better able to showcase the impact and have a significantly better chance of gaining the buy in from the goverment.