In-country Capacity for Food Fortification
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.
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
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.
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
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
More information contact:
Tel: 202 667 7745
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 5, October 1998