According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2008), in Mozambique, 44% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, a condition responsible for one third of deaths of children under five years of age. These figures have led the government to develop a multisectoral plan (PAMRDC 2011-2015 (20)) involving the participation of all stakeholders, which aims to reduce the rate of chronic malnutrition by more than half within 10 years.
One key approach to reducing chronic malnutrition is food fortification: the addition of vitamins and minerals to widely consumed, affordable staple foods. Iodine is a highly important micronutrient for proper physical and cognitive development. And, because of its mass consumption and affordability, salt was identified by the government as an ideal "vehicle" for iodine fortification.
The salt iodisation process in Mozambique has been encouraged since 1995 with the establishment of the National Salt Iodisation Program. Between 1999 and 2015, UNICEF financed the importation and free distribution of potassium iodate (iodine) to the salt producers, and since 2011 GAIN worked to support the effective iodisation process in the entire salt industry. However, after 16 years support to the private sector with free distribution of potassium the model had to be reviewed.
"The free distribution was designed to "buy" time for the industry to react toward the transition to self-sufficiency regarding procurement of iodine, but we faced a very vulnerable business environment and certainly a drop in iodisation rates. Challenged by the nature of the salt industry in Mozambique this model turned out to be unsustainable, creating a dependency on donations instead of a vision of a business opportunity," observes Frenk Nhamuenda, Project Manager Food Safety and Quality, Large Scale Food Fortification at GAIN, adding, "we explored ways to reduce this dependency and provide a more sustainable business model to ensure self-sufficiency and effective salt iodisation by the private sector."
A self- sustainable response to fortifying salt
Iodine importation models have been the main discussion point at the assemblies of the two recently established regional associations of salt producers and traders, and only one question remained among the producers (mostly micro and small producers): How will we continue to fortify salt?
We explored ways to reduce this dependency and provide a more sustainable business model to ensure self-sufficiency and effective salt iodisation by the private sector.
Under a project to support the fortification, safety and quality of food and universal iodisation of salt, GAIN supported the two regional associations, Association of Producers and Traders of Salt-South (APROCOSAL – Maputo, Inhambane and Sofala) and the Association of Salt Industry-North (AISAL – Nampula, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado) with a donation of 6.7 tons of iodine (4.7 and 2 tons respectively), and launched the revolving fund through its international GAIN Premix Facility (GPF). With many years of international experience in the acquisition of premixes (micronutrients for food fortification), including potassium iodate, the GPF is considered the best and most sustainable option for the provision of revolving credit for salt producers – regardless of their size and scope.
How will this revolving fund launched today work? The iodine donations made today will be managed by the associations, requiring that any salt producer that wants to buy iodine needs to fill a requisition form and make a payment to the association’s account, and the iodine will be delivered to him. The price of iodine acquired through the association is 30% lower than the current market price but guarantees a profit margin that will allow not only the availability of funds for the acquisition for new stocks of iodine, but also for the management of the associations, making them self-sustainable. By supporting these associations, GAIN is taking another step towards reducing the levels of chronic malnutrition in the country" said Gaspar Cuambe, Acting Country Director for GAIN in Mozambique.
During the iodine handover and revolving fund launch ceremony, the Mozambican Minister of Industry and Commerce emphasized that this is a clear demonstration of how collaboration between government, partners and the private sector can result in benefits for communities. With the launch of this revolving fund, the conditions are in place to ensure constant availability of iodine in the country, thus increasing the response capacity towards fortified products.
Manuel Augusto, a salt producer from Machanga district, Sofala Province further applauded the initiative noting, "One of the biggest difficulties faced by the salt producers since 2016 was the acquisition of iodine since there is no local supplier for this product, so we are sure that the donation that GAIN and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce make today to salt producers will change the current scenario of the salt industry. We will have more production and consequently more availability of iodised salt in the market,"
This is a joint effort, which reflects the multi-sectorial approach presented in the government plan for reduction of chronic malnutrition in Mozambique. The revolving fund will address the 1st specific objective of the National Food Fortification Strategy, which is to increase availability and access to fortified foods. Through these donations and the launch of the revolving fund, GAIN once again shows its dedication as main partner of the government in the salt iodisation process as it is expected that this amount of iodine reaches over 4 million Mozambicans per year.