In-country Capacity for Food Fortification

Report summary

The Micronutrient Initiative of Canada commissioned a study which employed a team from the Refugee Policy Group. The study involved, a mission to East Africa to examine how food aid for refugees and other emergency affected populations could be fortified using in-country processes. Travelling to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda between August 17th and September 16th 1997, the RPG team visited twelve refugee camps or emergency affected areas, interviewed agencies involved in programming food aid or processing foods in major industrial areas, and conducted a series of meetings to bring together the various actors who are or could be involved in fortifying food aid.

Findings

Micronutrient premix is easily available in East Africa although it is considered expensive and slow to obtain. Currently only a small portion of emergency food aid is processed or fortified in East Africa and staple foods are never fortified in Africa except when used as one ingredient in extrusion processed blended foods. Most commercial millers or food processing companies appear to be extremely willing to fortify the foods they process, though they lack the necessary equipment. Even the largest flour millers lack the technology or experience to fortify with a premix. Millers and NGO representatives exhibited confusion and uncertainty regarding what fortification entails, what nutrients need to be added and what it takes to mount a fortification process.

There is minimal milling capacity 'up-country' between major cities/ports and refugee camps. However, there are numerous small hammer and plate mills in each refugee camp visited which could provide a locus for batch mixing of fortificants. None of the visited camps lacked operational small mills. There are multiple sources for milling and dosing equipment in the region. Mills cost between $2,000 - $10,000.

Conclusions

Fortification of cereal staples with a mixture of about 20 vitamins and minerals is feasible, probably sustainable and cost-effective if implemented through use of camp-level mechanisms. It would cost less than $10 dollars per metric ton of delivered grain. Fortification of a staple grain ensures that micronutrients will be consumed to some degree by the whole at risk population. Relying on non-staple commodities as fortification vehicles has the result that refugees who exchange some of their commodities end up with less or insufficient amounts of the premix.

However, it does not appear to be feasible to add automated dosing equipment to the small mills in the camps, regardless of whether they are commercial or managed by international agencies. The equipment would need to be sensitive to, and adjust for the highly variable flow rates of grains through mills. This would require a level of sophistication of equipment that does not exist at camp level. In addition, as many bags of grain are run through the mill twice, it would add a level of complexity for setting dosage rates that would be too complicated for small scale millers. As many of the mills are privately owned there would be little incentive for those millers to properly use the dosing equipment. However, a separate system could be put in place that required little effort or compliance of millers. If one staff person directly responsible to and paid by an NGO or UN agency, were to work alongside the millers and whose main job was to estimate amounts of premix to be added and ensure hygiene, the cost would be minimal and there would be no conflict of interest.

Fortification is also feasible at the centralised level, though apparently less cost-effective and slower to mobilise. This could be cost-effective in those circumstances where food is being routed through major industrial centres when local purchase of foods require delivery to cities or where food is stored for contingency purposes.

Many who work in the nutrition sector have a broader goal of ensuring that fortification becomes standard practice across Africa in daily and commercial life. Through building up local and regional capacity for fortification, emergency food aid might just serve as the wedge that introduces fortification practices into these countries for general use.

As a follow on from this study and in light of other work done in this area recently, a Workshop for NGO Information Exchange on Fortifying Foods in Humanitarian Relief, hosted by the American Red Cross will be held in Washington DC. Co-sponsors are Food Aid Management (the US NGO Consortium), and the Congressional Hunger Centre. It will be held in the first half of February.
All interested NGO professionals are invited, as well as other professionals from multilaterals, academia and industry.

More information contact: Steven Hansch
Tel: 202 667 7745 E-mail: sh@intr.net

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Reference this page

In-country Capacity for Food Fortification. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p8. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/incountry