The Ihangane Project
The World Food Programme estimates that a basic lack of nutrition accounts for more than one-third of deaths (3.1 million) of kids under five around the globe. Among the most common interventions is fortified porridge which has added vitamins and minerals. In East Africa, local and regional suppliers of fortified porridge and flours sell it in small shops and major retail outlets at a price that most households can’t afford. So instead, many families make their own porridge at home by grinding maize, soya, beans, sorghum, or other available grains into a flour. However, preventing malnutrition requires fortifying the grains, a step most households cannot do on their own.
The Ihangane Project tackles this challenge in Rwandan communities by supplying the national brand of fortified porridge to participants in their Nutrition for HIV-exposed Infants (NHI) program for free, but the program has its limitations. It’s entirely donor funded, making its long-term sustainability vulnerable. Moreover, many of its program participants are smallholder farmers producing the exact grains you find in fortified porridge. We wondered if their participants could be a key to the program’s financial sustainability.
The Ihangane Project engaged Catapult Design to help them think through this systems challenge. Some key considerations included: where are the opportunities to create sustainable distribution of fortified foods? Can local farming coops be leveraged? What tools would be needed? What skills or trainings would be needed? And what would the model look like?
We mapped out a research plan. Working with The Ihangane Project’s team in Ruli, Rwanda we captured key players and stakeholders in a diagram and went store-to-store tracking prices for grains, flour, commercial porridges, fresh produce, and milling services. Women in the coops invited us into their homes to observe preparation and portioning patterns for porridge. And the farmers themselves contributed their ideas as to how to coordinate and simplify productions for a community-produced porridge. [see a photo diary of our on-the-ground research here]
In the end, Catapult and The Ihangane Project produced a guidebook and communication tool for coops, farmers, and organizations that want to tackle malnutrition in their communities by producing their own fortified porridge. Please contact The Ihangane Project for information on how to access the guidebook. The first five pages are below.