Small Scale Food Fortification at the Village Level

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Small Scale Food Fortification at the Village Level

Lalitpur , NepalCambridge, United States
Year Founded:
2008
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

PHC is working globally to bring fortified food to the hardest to reach and most vulnerable populations. An effective model and game changing technology has been designed that enables small and medium scale, village-level mills to cost-effectively and sustainably fortify their flour.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Despite the increasing adoption of large-scale fortification programs, approximately one billion people are still vitamin and mineral deficient because of the lack of access to centrally processed foods, eliminating the opportunity to consume these fortified foods. Addressing this gap becomes critical when considering the fact that these rural and remote populations are the most vulnerable and in the greatest need of strategies to combat micronutrient malnutrition. Previous small-scale fortification attempts have been limited by expense and imprecision, preventing these most vulnerable populations from accessing the benefits of additional vitamins and minerals added to staple food products.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In the past, some efforts have been made to fortify flour processed by small to medium-scale millers manually, by hand scooping essential nutrients directly into the flour. Such a method is prone to human error since it is difficult to monitor the homogeneity of the added nutrients. In 2008, PHC decided to take on the challenge of small-scale fortification since there was a clear need for a more accurate, cost-effective and streamlined model to get micronutrients to the rural poor. PHC has since developed a game changing technology that has proven to be an effective and low-cost solution to combat micronutrient deficiencies in rural populations. PHC’s completely automated dosifier has been developed over five years with the aim to meet specific key criteria: low-cost yet accurate and robust, lightweight and easily transportable, and the ability to be installed on all flour mills. Currently, no other fortification device available meets these criteria.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In most African countries and in parts of southern Asia, staple foods are not centrally processed. In these regions, a large percentage of consumers (i.e., surpassing 50%, and even up to 90% in some countries) depend on small to medium-scale milling to process staple foods. These consumers cannot be reached using the large-scale, centralized fortification model. Ironically, these consumers are also the poorest of the poor – the very ones who are most in danger of micronutrient malnutrition. Previous programs attempting to address the problem via the direct “hand-scoop” method of fortification at small-scale mills have achieved limited success. The risk of human error and the challenge of monitoring and sustaining the program once the implementing partner has left has meant that these programs have never been scaled up past the initial pilot stage. Furthermore, this method requires an extra step for the miller, and despite seeming simple and non-tedious, in the end the job usually doesn't get done. For this reason, PHC designed a fully automated device, where the miller has no responsibilities. The device's hopper looks very similar to the mill's tradition hopper and thus installation is seamless and doesn't impose on the millers work flow. In fact, it improves it due to the grain weight being displayed on an LED. In 2011, PHC expanded its pilot project in Nepal where there are 30 devices installed in extremely rural conditions in order to stress test the technology. In 2013, PHC expanded to Tanzania to install an additional 100 devices to reach a population of 1 million.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

PHC has recently expanded its work to Tanzania due to the countries severe vitamin and mineral deficiency problem. Every year deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and folic acid cost the country over US$ 518 million, around 2.65 % of the country’s GDP. Beyond the economic losses, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a significant contributor to infant mortality, with over 27,000 infant and 1,600 maternal deaths annually attributable to this cause. In fact, if all of these deaths could be avoided, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Tanzania could be reduced to 41.5 per 1,000 population, which would virtually ensure achievement of the MDG goal for IMR (40/1,000). Tanzania has passed legislation for mandatory fortification. Maize contributes to about 90% of Tanzanian diets, and this flour is mostly produced by small/medium scale mills. For the first time there is now a low cost and automated technology to fortify at these mills, capable of reaching over 30 million people in Tanzania alone.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

In Tanzania the annual per capita premix cost is <$0.37, translating to an 0.8% market increase for fortified flour. This cost is easily absorbed by the miller or through the milling fee in a cost-recovery system. Part of the social marketing campaign is to offer payment plans and gov't subsidies to millers to offset the upfront cost of the technology. Also, the dosifier uses a highly concentrated premix which cuts transport and storage costs.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The advantage of our fortification program at small and medium scale mills compared to other nutrition initiatives like supplementation, RUTF or Sprinkles, is its low cost implementation and high coverage impact. Other dosifiers on the market are large in size, complicated and cost roughly US$7000 to $10,000. Our innovative technology is designed for ease of manufacture and field repair, and with an operating procedure that causes little disruption to the established daily routine of the miller. A low up-front device cost (<US$1000) makes the device accessible directly to millers, local communities, governments, and NGOs. Furthermore, by working in countries where mandatory fortification legislation has been passed, we are able to have the cost of the device and premix subsidized by the government.
Team

Founding Story

PHC’s mission is to design and implement comprehensive micronutrient strategies in developing countries. PHC began in 2000 in response to the enormous gap between the health care systems in the United States and elsewhere. PHC expanded its focus to village level fortification when Founder and CEO David Dodson was driving through rural Rwanda. PHC was working with the government of Rwanda to design and implement a nationwide food fortification program, to enrich staple products with vital nutrients essential for good health. But as he passed by the small farms, he realized that the programs PHC had designed would never reach the rural, very-poor, Rwandans with no access to centrally processed foods. It was then he realized that if PHC devised a means, i.e. a technology, to fortify food in the thousands of small mills scattered over the developing world, there was a chance to impact the most vulnerable populations with a cost effective solution that prevents disease before it happens.
About You
Organization:
Project Healthy Children
About You
First Name

Felix

Last Name

Brooks-church

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Project Healthy Children

Organization Country

, MA, Cambridge, Middlesex County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, BA, Lalitpur

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Changemakers 2010
Improved Nutrition
Solutions through Innovation

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

Partnering with an NGO working in the community where the device will be used and among the population it will serve will be critical for appropriate tailoring of the innovation and acceptance of the fortified product. Such an operational collaboration will allow for the sharing of information regarding markets and bottom line incentives relevant for other local millers who may wish to adopt the technology and can enable the innovation to be part of a greater national effort to track and improve the target population’s nutritional status..