Filippo Veglio

Fortifying Food, Fighting Malnutrition : A WBCSD case study explores BASF’s multi-stakeholder initiative to boost nutrients

Two billion people in developing and transitioning countries suffer from a lack of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals in their diet. Among the consequences of such micronutrient deficiency are night blindness, higher infant, child and maternal mortality as well as a weakened immune system. Contributing to the cycle is the fact that many people do not know they are malnourished, nor are they aware of the benefits of fortified foods.

BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, has a portfolio ranging from chemicals, plastics, performance products and crop protection products to oil and gas. Within BASF’s Nutrition & Health division, the improvement of the nutrition, health and wellbeing of consumers all over the world is a main goal. At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we researched an initiative by BASF called the Strategic Alliance for the Fortification of Oil and Other Staple Foods (SAFO), for a recent case study. BASF, one of the largest producers of micronutrients, such as Vitamin A, created SAFO in 2008 in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The partnership was set up with the aim of securing sufficient vitamin A intake to at least 100 million people in developing and emerging countries.

SAFO builds on the partners’ complementary capabilities. BASF works with staple food producers to bring out the multiple benefits of fortification for local companies. It also provides technical support and advice on equipment and processes. GIZ contributes its long-standing expertise in complex multi-stakeholder dialogues and well-established networks with relevant political actors, civil organizations and international agencies in the target countries.

SAFO takes a systemic approach to develop markets for fortified food. Even though fortified food has significant health benefits, those most affected by malnutrition are often hardest to reach. People are typically not aware of being malnourished, are not informed about the benefits of fortified foods, and are unable or unwilling to pay the premium price of branded fortified products. Additionally, unbranded foods are hardly fortified without proper quality assessment. Therefore, the aim of SAFO is to support the development of an enabling regulatory market environment for staple foods. In this way, all consumers in a country can be reached whereas the product price increases minimally: about 0.1 percent for vitamin A fortified oil, which means on average US$ 0.001 per bottle.

To create the conditions for food fortification, GIZ and BASF take a strategic multi-stakeholder approach. All involved partners, such as farmers, millers, retailers, the public sector and households have specific roles to achieve and implement obligatory fortification.

SAFO supports existing National Food Fortification Associations (NFFAs) in advancing and accelerating the process towards fortification. In addition, it complements existing capabilities of players and fills critical gaps as identified in the dialogue process. One key principle of SAFO is that ownership for these processes needs to be at the local level. The initiative is clearly designed as a limited time and resource intervention, with BASF and GIZ as two of the many contributors.

SAFO has already achieved its goal: with a budget of only €2.8 million, more than 150 million people with malnutrition now have access to vitamin A-fortified cooking oil. SAFO has contributed to a sustainable commitment for improved nutrition and food-fortification among local staple food producers and key stakeholders in five countries with high micronutrient deficiency prevalence.

Our comprehensive case study (available in pdf format for download here) examines the initiative’s approach and achievements. It includes the example of Tanzania to show how SAFO is implemented at the country level.

Filippo Veglio is the director of the Development Focus Area for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Agriculture, Education, Health Care