Mühlenchemie has developed a tailor-made nutritional blend that is being used in conjunction with metering devices to fortify flour in Tanzania, in the hopes of feeding children who are suffering the effects of poor nutrition.
The concept was created by Felix Brooks-Church, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sanku. He saw the negative impact of hidden hunger a decade ago while volunteering in Cambodia and decided to dedicate his life to finding a way to help children faced with low-nutrient diets.
Brooks-Church moved to Nepal and built a basic metering device to automate the process of adding key vitamins and minerals to the cereal grains during milling at the village level. By 2011, the device was ready for field testing. It ran smoothly at the isolated village of Sankhu in Nepal.
The success attracted international attention and offers of funding, which encouraged the team to move to Tanzania in 2013. In that country, a third of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.
After seeing the meter in use, former acting Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete asked Brooks-Church whether it was possible to add the devices to the more than 3,000 small mills across Tanzania. In response, Brooks-Church co-founded Sanku, a non-profit organization named after the Nepali village where he tried the first meter.
Small flour millers were allowed to use the machines free of charge. For the nutritional needs, the organization reached out to Mühlenchemie, which had local knowledge and was willing to support the development of the country on a wider scale.
“We are in the business of improving flour, and thus improving lives, by helping people who need it the most,” said Marvin Jaeger, Mühlenchemie’s area sales manager in South East Africa. “Naturally we were delighted to support the project. Mühlenchemie has substantial R&D resources at its Stern-Technology Center, which we used to develop a tailor-made nutritional blend that would cover the needs of those living in these rural areas in accordance with Tanzanian regulations.
“The development also took account of the special situation of the mills, with their simple machinery, which was not comparable to mass production. I could see a strong hands-on mentality among the millers.”
Sanku installed nearly 100 metering devices in three years, reaching over half a million people with fortified flour. However, a major challenge remained: making the necessary nutritional blend financially viable for the small-scale millers.
The organization realized it was paying a relatively high price for its flour sacks and initiated the Pink Bag Model. By procuring pink flour sacks in large numbers, Sanku had a lower purchase price than millers could have locally. It was able to sell the millers the flour sacks for a price at which the savings equaled the funds needed to buy the fortification premix developed by Mühlenchemie.
Since use of the metering equipment was free, the millers were able to cover their need for the machine, the flour sacks and the fortification premix without any additional expense. Compliance has skyrocketed and the biggest challenge is keeping up with demand from new millers who want to join the Sanku program.
Sanku’s next goal is to cover five countries in East Africa, reaching 100 million people and improving their lives by 2025.
“Mühlenchemie owns the only FlourWorld Museum worldwide, with over 3,600 flour sacks in its Sackotheque,” Jaeger said. “We are proud to see the power of an unusually designed flour bag, and the creative business model behind it, to achieve our common goal of putting an end to malnutrition.”