Food fortification increases the content of essential vitamins and minerals in food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and fight micronutrient deficiencies among the poorest. With the support of the Innovation Accelerator, WFP is seeking to scale up rice fortification to countries in West Africa.

Good nutrition is widely recognized to be an essential element in the ability to lead a healthy and productive life. Yet poor nutrition remains a critical global problem: Each year, more children die as a result of undernutrition than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. 

Ending malnutrition by 2030 is a core element of the Sustainable Development Goals and underpins WFP’s work towards Zero Hunger. The effects of malnutrition are devastating and far reaching. It not only causes loss of life, but also weakens immune systems and increases risk of disease. It lowers the success rate in education and employment, ultimately leading to the loss of productivity and well-being of communities and nations. It is both a result and driver of poverty and inequality.

About Rice Fortification

The inclusion of vitamins or minerals to commonly eaten foods, also known as food fortification, has already played a part in reducing micronutrient deficiencies over the past century, with micronutrients such as folate or iodine added to foods like flour and salt.  Fortified rice kernels look, taste and cook like ordinary rice and are combined with regular rice at a ratio of 1 to 100. Moreover, the technology to fortify rice has already been developed and consumer acceptability proven. To complement the WFP food basket – the food distributed depending on the needs of the groups – WFP has introduced the fortification of staples. Fortification usually aims to meet adult needs, while vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant and nursing women may require supplements or specially fortified products.

However, although fortification technology has been developed, and consumer acceptability proven, rice fortification programmes remain largely under utilised. This is due to the fact that these programmes have not been sufficiently scaled to determine optimum business models and costs.

With a ground-breaking pilot in Mali, the Innovation Accelerator has allowed WFP to step up efforts to bring rice fortification programmes to scale. In line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2.2 to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, the project aims to develop a model for WFP, both in West Africa and globally.

Rice Fortification in Mali

The Mali pilot set out to test whether imported fortified kernels, mixed with local rice could work as a feasible business model, improving cost-efficiency and reducing a country’s dependence on external staple foods. Fortified kernels were imported from Thailand, but 1500MT of rice was purchased from a local farmers’ cooperative.

A local company — Malô — founded by young entrepreneurs, was contracted to mill and blend the rice with the kernels. Since starting, they have now produced approximately 500 MT of fortified rice and sent it to a WFP warehouse, with the remaining 1000 MT due for delivery later in 2017. The rice will be used in a school feeding programme starting in October, to improve children’s dietary intake of essential vitamins and minerals, boosting their immune system and cognitive development.

A scalable model for West Africa — and beyond

As more and more countries in West Africa consume rice as a staple, this innovative pilot tests a programme entry mode for fortified rice in large-scale WFP operations. The objectives are to implement a new, operative, market model using imported kernels, locally-produced rice and local blending; optimise programme set up and scale-up; and develop a regional model for WFP in West Africa and beyond.

The pilot will also provide important lessons for WFP’s adoption of fortified rice programmes globally. The project is being monitored, evaluated and documented in terms of its operational aspects and key financial performance indicators. Findings will be used to design a model for cost-effective, global scale-up. It is hoped that this will allow roll out of rice fortification programmes worldwide, improving the nutritional status of vast numbers of vulnerable children and adults.

17.570692, -3.996166