Gates Foundation’s $10 million to support fortified foods initiative
Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF), a four-year initiative to support local food processors in producing more fortified foods to combat malnutrition was launched yesterday in Lagos by the Minister of Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is supporting the SAPFF project with $10 million intervention funds to boost the capacity of 40 local food companies to produce and sell fortified foods for local markets. The objective is to increase competitiveness of nutritious foods and to ensure Nigerians of all social status get healthy foods to meet their daily dietary needs.
Fortified foods are foods enriched in micronutrients essential for normal body functioning. The SAPFF initiative is a partnership between two non-profit organisations – TechnoServe and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) – that have the objectives to boost technical knowledge to promote the production of fortified foods and also develop business solutions to link processors with capital and market.
Quoting the National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS) assessment of 2013, Enelamah noted that two of three children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, pointing out that the Federal Government had been making effort to improve the situation with its drive to ensure compliance to food production regulations.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mallam Aminu Bisala, the minister said there is a strong link between nutrition and economic development, noting that a World Bank report revealed that poor nutrition may reduce countries’ GDPs by three per cent.
He said: “As a government, we have responsibility to ensure our citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones – women and children – have access to nutritious foods. We will also continue to make business case for nutrition. It is important that the private sector does not see its investment in production of fortified foods as mere response to corporate social responsibility.
The minister said the government had been engaging the private sector players to increase quantity of affordable fortified foods in the market, with the aim to end stunting that is affecting 37 per cent of children under the age of five.
The Director of Nutrition for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in United States, Mr Shawn Baker, said the intervention was necessitated by low technical expertise and compliance among food processors in three African countries – Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. He said the project was created to bridge the gap in compliance and promote technical assistance for the food industry to meet the government standards.
He said: “Almost half of children that die in Africa yearly die because of lack of access to nutritious foods. It has been established that fortified foods are essential for physical and mental development of children. At Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe tackling challenges against production of fortified foods is important to promote global health. We are supporting this initiative to galvanise the private sector players to ensure that the foods they are taking to the market is health for consumption. That is, the foods must contain the basic nutrients that human body needs.
“We also discovered a disconnection between the government’s mandate to increase fortified foods and what the food industry produces, which is a problem of compliance. So this project is helping to bridge the gap in terms of technical assistance for the food industry to meet the government standards.”
The Country Director of TechnoServe, Mr Larry Umunna, said the partners would mobilise their experienced consultants and resources to solve technical and investment challenges facing local food processors.
He said: “We will this platform to ensure continuous engagement with government and private sector players is maintained, with the aim to ensuring we restore the glory of our food industry. Nigerians deserve fortified foods.”
The event, held at Oriental Hotel on Victoria Island, Lagos, also featured two panels of discussion, which examined Building a business case for nutrition in Nigeria and Commitment to building the competiveness of the Nigeria Food Processing and SAPFF.
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