Fighting malnutrition through naturally-grown food additives
SIDA-IAP Innovator of the Year Award 2012 - NOMINEE
It is our aim to design a business model that grants access to naturally grown food additives to various bop market segments in Madagascar, and beyond. This idea is based on a two-year trial with the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera), whose leaves are extraordinarily rich in Vitamin A and proteins, and provide an excellent basis for the production of a condensed moringa flour.
The GEXSI team started its own moringa test plot in Mahajanga, Madagascar, in 2009, which yielded about 1,000 kg of pure moringa powder for product and market test purposes by the end of 2011.
Even though the quality and properties of the product is unquestioned, we identified the lack of sound distribution channels as the key bottle neck. Worldwide, moringa leaf powder has so far been produced either by local NGOs (for direct use, not entering the food processing value chain) or has been commercialized in niche markets (such as health stores, often with online distribution).
With support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), we now are in the process of starting a BOP-market development exercise, to explore several routes to work with business and distribution partners such as:
- Mass-market food producers to introduce fortified flour for the Madagascan market (reaching down to the lower middle class);
- Specialised producers of school meals (pain de fruit) as well as of baby food that have access to subsidized distribution channels through government school mealing programmes and health NGOs (bop market focus);
- Producers of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) such as Nutriset or Valid Nutrition that already today deliver into bop markets (as part of international emergency relief programmes) and that may consider to include moringa powder as one of their ingredients;
- Distributors of cattle and chicken feed, to sell the moringa fibre, which is a residue from our food additive production, as a high-nutrient animal feed, which will not only provide a certain profit margin but may have a positive impact on the nutrient chain (e.g. through enriched milk products), a health impact that suggests further scientific research;
- Local NGOs that assist in promoting among rural villagers to plant moringa tree, with the aim to benefit from the positive health impacts by cooking fresh moringa leaves as a vegetable, as it is quite common in certain areas in Madagascar already today.
The design of our BOP market access study indicates the target groups. These are:
- Marginalized groups at risk both in Madagascar and beyond that benefit from the distribution of baby meals, fortified flour and ready-to-use therapeutic foods as part of emergency relief and poverty reduction programmes;
- School children across Madagascar that benefit from government funded school meals or whose parents purchase snacks made with fortified flour (e.g. biscuits);
- Rural villagers that gain access to self-grown moringa products;
- All customers who use flour or milk products, if the flour is fortified with Moringa flour and, in the case of milk products, if health impact through nutrient chain holds true.
Finally, in late 2012, GEXSI was one of three nominees for SIDA's inaugural Innovations Against Poverty Award. This achievement underlines the soundness of the approach that we have taken, and the very real potential of this social impact business model.