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Partnering with SMEs to improve nutrition

By Milliam Murigi
Monday, May 3rd, 2021
Fridah Kaburu, Prosoya innovtion manager inspects the company’s products, Uji lala. Photo/PD/MILLIAM MURIGI
In summary

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition has worked with stakeholders in the sector to enhance their productivity and sustainability in a country where 26 per cent of children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

When Kaburu Muguika started his company, Prosoya Kenya Limited, his aim was to fight malnutrition by providing affordable fortified flours from a collection of cereals.

Globally, malnutrition is the cause of nearly half of all deaths in children under five.

In Kenya, 26 per cent of children under five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

Nutrition-related issues contribute to four out of 10 top risk factors for diseases and mortality in Kenya.

However, despite the affordability of their products, the uptake by the target market was not encouraging.

That is why in 2016, the idea of making affordable ready to drink porridge was born.

“The idea was born after a research, which revealed most people didn’t have time to prepare porridge.

Most of them knew how nutritious porridge is, but preparation time has always been the main hindrance for porridge uptake,” says Fridah Kaburu, Prosoya innovation manager.

However, lack of capital to buy the required machinery, held back this dream.

Fortunately, in 2018 the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) came on board with various form of support making Prosoya’s dream a reality.

Under their Marketplace for Nutritious Food project, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, GAIN provided technical assistance, training as well as a grant funding to this company enabling them to introduce their nutritious product into the market in late 2019.

“The goal of this programme is to increase production, marketing, and availability of more nutritious and safe foods by promoting innovation and catalysing private sector engagement.

We support businesses that have the potential to increase production and consumption of nutritious foods in the local market,” said Leah Kaguara, GAIN country director.

Today,Prosoya  processes over 2,000 litres of ready-to-drink nutritious fermented porridge under their brand Uji Lala daily.

They package the product in small containers to ensure they are not only affordable but attractive too. A 250ml container sells for Sh30.

“We received about Sh10million grant from GAIN, which has helped us install state-of-the-art processing equipment and we have mechanised the whole process,” says Fridah. 

Another company, Neighbourhood Freshmart Limited, which specialises in directly sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables from smallholder farmers across the country and distributing them to selected markets within Nairobi has also benefitted from this programme. 

Safe distribution

Before GAIN came on board in 2018, the company didn’t have a cold storage room for keeping fruits and vegetables at the correct temperature while controlling moisture level to help extend the life of the fresh produce, but now they do.

They were also able to purchase additional crates for hygienic handling and transportation of produce.

Then, they used to encounter huge post-harvest losses but all this has changed. They also used to receive products either late in the evening or early in the morning for regrading.

Now with a cold room, they even receive the product by midday and the freshness and quality are maintained.

“Because of this support, we are now able to accomplish our aim of providing traceable and safe vegetables for urban consumers,” said Mahat Ali, the director.

Established in 2013, the project has helped many local businesses get off the ground by fostering innovation and promoting investment to transform local agriculture into accessible, nutritious foods and has helped bring over 10 million servings of nutritious food to local markets.

They have been focusing on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the nutritious food value chain in developing profitable business models and sustainably bringing nutritious and safe foods to market.

Two-pronged approach

“The Marketplace provides access to knowledge, networks, technical and financial assistance to help businesses in low-income countries use local agriculture to contribute to the fight against malnutrition. We have supported over 60 businesses so far,” Kaguara adds.

The project’s two-pronged approach supports a broad network of stakeholders with information and knowledge, through the Community of Practice, while targeted technical and financial support is offered to promising, innovative enterprises through the Innovation Accelerator.

The Community of Practice creates a network of entrepreneurs, businesses, universities, regulatory bodies, non-governmental organisations, associations, and anyone else interested in knowing more about how businesses can contribute to improved supply of nutritious and safe foods in low-income environments. It convenes regularly for networking and capacity-building events.

The Innovation Accelerator supports investible, nutrition-enhancing business ideas within the agricultural value chain.

After review, promising proposals are eligible for technical assistance to support business planning, product, and business development. Selected companies also become eligible to receive grant funding and technical assistance to support the implementation of the business plan

“By working with investable businesses to support innovations all along the agricultural value chain (processing to food preparation) the programmee makes a sustainable contribution to agricultural and enterprise development as well as to dietary diversity which contributes to improved nutritional status in the household,” adds Kaguara..

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