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GAIN and WFP in the forefront to mobilise private sector to contribute positively to nutrition in Tanzania

  |   SUN Business Network

A story written by GAIN Tanzania and WFP Tanzania – Originally published in The Citizen 

Asas Dairies Limited business development Manager, Hassan Swedi,

Private sector has been urged to use business skills and the multiple opportunities they have to create more affordable and desirable food options that meet the nutrition needs of the target consumers. This will contribute to the much needed changes needed to achieve the goal of a better nourished population. The call was made by the Global Alliance for improved Nutrition (GAIN) Country representative, Mr. Enock Musinguzi, at the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) business network meeting under the theme; “Mobilizing private sector to make greater contribution towards national nutrition goals.” This event was conducted with the participation of 40+ of its members from across Tanzania as well as government representatives.

Tanzania is among a small group of SUN countries which are “ahead of the pack” in identifying and seeking a comprehensive response to nutrition, especially in identifying an active role for market-based approaches to complement coordinated health system interventions. The National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) constitutes a bold effort to engage and coordinate diverse actors in a new country-wide, long term programme with innovative features including a clear recognition of the need to include the private sector.

The SBN has provided a platform for stakeholders to ensure that private sector voices are heard and included in the plan and is tasked to catalyse/design, sequence and prioritise, sustainable business interventions and investments for business action in support of government nutrition priorities as articulated in the NMNAP, in order to improve the availability, desirability and affordability of nutritious foods and food products to consumers in Tanzania.

Speaking at the event in Dar es Salaam, Mr. Julius Surati from GAIN/SBN noted that private sector can play great role in providing awareness on nutrition because they were suppliers of food in the market, starting with factual nutrition information about their products. He said if awareness was improved, consumption and demand of nutritious foods such as fortified products would also increase, resulting in reduction of micronutrients deficiencies.

“We call upon more businesses to join the network”, Enock Musinguzi said. “WFP is eager to work together with GAIN as co-conveners of the SBN to mobilise the private sector, ensuring that members come on board and provide more benefits to the nutrition sector in Tanzania,” Michael Dunford, WFP Tanzania Country Representative said.

OFA, Chief Executive Officer, Theonest Katanda

Mr. Greg S. Garrett, Director of Food Policy & Financing at GAIN, emphasized that malnutrition costs Tanzania billions of shillings and that agri-food SMEs can play a major part in providing more affordable, nutritious foods and thus preventing malnutrition. “At GAIN, we have started to look at ways through which we can enable agri-food SMEs in this region with support, including affordable blended financing options. These will be complementary efforts towards supporting Tanzania’s existing nutrition programmes.”

Indeed, private sector players seemed to be reaping benefit and ready to go. Speaking at the same meeting, Organic Food Associates’ (OFA) CEO, Mr. Theonest Katanda, said for the past six months they have managed to distribute about 100 tonnes of fortified maize flour in Dar es Salaam. He noted that in the near future they are set to introduce a new product that will contain 12 different types of nutrients. “Through GAIN initiative, we are currently discussing with an American company that will help us improve the nutritional quality of our maize flour,” he said. In readiness for this, Mr. Katanda said that they have started to reach out to households to increase awareness on the importance of nutritious foods.

AFCO Executive Director, Fortunatha Mmari

AFCO executive Director, Ms. Fortunatha Mmari, another SBN member at the event said that they target whole families with their biofortified products. “It should be understood that nutritious foods are good for everyone and they can be obtained at a reasonable price.” According to her, their plan is to make sure that by 2020, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are supplied countrywide at affordable price in Tanzania. Asas Dairies Limited is one of the important stakeholders in this endeavour. Its business development manager, Mr Hassan Swedi, said at the meeting that his organization was currently planning to introduce long lasting milk which can last for up to six months. In order to achieve this, he said, they have started expansion of their factory in Iringa as well as construction of warehouse to allow storage of the products. “We hope that this new product will help in promoting milk drinking culture among many Tanzanians,” he said.

To date, SBN is proud of mobilizing the private sector for nutrition actions and indeed much as a lot remain to be and have to be done, some interesting things have already happened. In addition to what is already mentioned above, the work SBN has done with Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) on nutrition awareness through documentaries is worthy our mention as well as private sector support during saba saba and nane nane events, to mention but a few.

SBN Tanzania seems indeed to have created a good platform for private sector engagement with other important stakeholders like government and others. Earlier, SBN organised a roundtable under the theme: “15 Business Actions to Improve Nutrition in Tanzania and the role of SBN.” The session had about 30 participants- mainly business and jointly moderated by government representatives and the global SBN Manager, Mr. Jonathan Tench. The following 15 proposals were made by business representatives in Tanzania, as concrete steps towards improvements in nutrition by private sector actors:

  1. Promote nutrition and SBN members’ products in retail-suggesting that SBN could seek to secure prominent placements and promotions, in-store education to consumers through retail outlets. This is based on realisation that many unhealthy food products are edging out healthy diets due to marketing gimmicks at the point of sale
  2. Promote nutrition and SBN members to wholesalers: This suggestion sought to use the wholesaler within the value chain to promote nutrition, after some level of awareness or promotion drive to wholesalers to promote SBN members’ healthier food choices. This proposal is premised on the fact that wholesalers have a huge influence on what is sold in their distribution chains. Bringing them on-board would bring about dividends, some members opined
  3. Promote nutrition and healthy diets through rural health clinics: An observation was made that health centres remain a trusted source of nutrition and health-related information and many mothers take what they are told there as the gospel truth. The question therefore becomes how we can use rural health clinics as a space where we can educate mothers about nutrition – and how to identify more nutritious foods in the market and prepare them at home.
  4. Bio-fortification: Given the existing challenges of industrial fortification, especially of maize, some members committed to introducing and scaling up bio-fortified crops for  example iron enriched beans, yellow maize and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes  to rural consumers in Tanzania – but it requires support around demand creation, it was observed
  5. Mandatory fortification legislation at local government level was seen as a critical step to deepen the agenda at the grassroots and a number of companies advocated for this approach
  6. Access to nutritious foods: Members committed to doubling the production of fortified maize for low income consumers in the next 24 months hence increasing coverage for improved diet. Currently according to aGAIN study, less than 3% of maize consumed nationally is fortified
  7. Increase support for breastfeeding mothers through company workplace: Private sector committed to making sure that mothers have more time to attend to their children to promote breast feeding
  8. Build demand for dairy to improve consumption of dairy products and develop capacity of small dairy producers for instance through building school-milk programmes
  9. Partnership with associations to improve advocacy: Business associations and councils observed that there is need to collaborate with SBN to increase their members’ awareness about nutrition
  10. Explore local Micro Nutrient Powder production in Tanzania to facilitate easy and timely access to the essential micronutrients to the deserving masses- given the current demand though, this remains challenging to implement
  11. Consolidate small scale salt producers needed to increase capacity and ensure adequate iodisation compliance, including demand creation
  12. Explore ‘milk ATMs’ to Tanzania, dairy members of SBN Tanzania want to adopt the model that has been used by some entrepreneurs in some other Countries
  13. Access to healthier and affordable street foods: The members requested to look at how to address nutrition through street food vendors, reduce fatty products, and replace them with healthier alternatives through appropriate financing and promotion mechanisms of such businesses
  14. Private Sector contribution to fighting Non Communicable Diseases (NCD): Media houses to discuss with nutrition practitioners on NCD awareness campaigns through various platforms to try and contain the rising problem
  15. Contribution to direct nutrition financing by private sector: Funding of some nutrition promotion aspects by some private sector was highlighted as important towards multisectoral approach to fighting malnutrition of all forms and SBN will mobilise the members to this cause

If implemented, these 15 recommendations would facilitate implementation of Tanzania’s NMNAP. SBN looks fired enough and set to get their members to be part of the nutrition action in Tanzania, in accordance and in support of government plans and priorities.

Global SBN Manager, Jonathan Tench, Co-facilitates at the SBN event in Dar es Salaam

The SUN Business Network, co-led by GAIN and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), forms part of a multi-stakeholder partnership between business, UN agencies, civil society and donors with the aim of mobilizing and catalysing private sector for nutrition action (product/service innovation, financing, packaging, marketing and communication, distribution etc).

GAIN is set up to be the go to partner in Tanzania for the design and implementation of policies and programmes that engage the leadership of government with the power of the private sector to improve the consumption of affordable nutritious food.

WFP works closely with the Government in areas of nutrition, social safety nets, supply chain and support to smallholder farmers with the aim of combating malnutrition and strengthening the food value chain. This cross sectoral approach has enormous potential to positively influence the nutrition sector and engage proactively with the private sector throughout the country.

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