Bamako, 22 May 2019. Under the coordination of the SUN Movement, the representative of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs today announced the launch of the MERIEM project (“Mobilising Sahelian businesses for large-scale innovative responses to fight malnutrition”), implemented by GRET and Hystra. Thanks to the support of their financial partners – Agence française de développement (AFD) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a multi-stakeholder alliance will test innovative marketing solutions over a three-year period with Sahelian businesses, with a view to meeting a major public health challenge in the country: malnutrition.
With consequences such as delayed growth, micronutrient deficiencies and excess bodyweight, malnutrition affects the health and development of young children and their mothers over the long term. In Mali, 27% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, and 46% of women are anaemic. By providing nutritional value suited to their needs, fortified food products have strong potential to prevent this phenomenon. Particularly in cities, where families want food products that are affordable, easy to prepare and attractive.
But Sahelian businesses encounter difficulties entering the market when it comes to manufactured fortified foods for women and children. This is a complex market to move into, with stringent requirements in terms of quality and significant legislative constraints regarding promotion.
To meet this challenge, AFD and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came together in a public-private partnership to fund the Meriem project – “Mobilising Sahelian businesses for large-scale innovative responses to fight malnutrition”. In concrete terms, this pilot project aims to test innovative marketing solutions in large cities in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali to prevent malnutrition.
Conduct of the Meriem project has been entrusted to an alliance of multi-disciplinary stakeholders who have proven skills in terms of marketing and nutritional innovations. Under the co-management of development NGO GRET and consultancy firm Hystra, stakeholders from research (IRD), development (Iram, I.C.I) and consultants working with businesses internationally (Ogilvy Change, ThinkPlace) are pooling their skills to support the local private sector for nutritional innovations.
“Low-income populations do not have the means to purchase imported fortified food products”, says François Lepicard of Hystra, co-director of the Meriem project. “And local supply is still insufficient in quality or too limited to cover the needs of populations in cities. The first victims of this lack of interest are the consumers. To encourage Sahelian production and distribution businesses to become active on a large scale in a growing market while focusing on the general interest, it is necessary to minimize the risks related to their investment.”
“By including a marketing approach in systems to prevent malnutrition, in addition to action by the public sector, and with respect for legislation, we want the majority of young children and their mothers to have access to a quality local fortified food product offer over the long term”, explains Martial Pouret, Meriem project director.
Claire Labat, communication manager at GRET (France): email@example.com / +33 (0)1 70 91 92 76.
Charles Bakyono, GRET’s representative in Mali: firstname.lastname@example.org / +223 92 02 99 22.
This document benefits from the support of Agence française de développement and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nevertheless, the ideas and opinions expressed in this document do not necessarily represent those of AFD or the Foundation.