Malawi and Uganda: The Pull for Progress
One of FFI’s innovative approaches to ensure high-quality fortified foods are available in Africa is a grassroots Pull Strategy.
The strategy, funded by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), engages the consumer and civic society groups in advocacy and monitoring. Consumer and civic society groups assess the availability and quality of fortified foods available on the market. To date, numerous countries that have fortification programs struggle to determine if the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals are being added to foods. A major reason for this is government food safety inspectors’ limited bandwidth and resources.
To test out this alternative approach to ensuring quality products are on the market, FFI started pilot projects in Malawi and Uganda in 2018 and completed the second phase of the strategy, Pull 2, in 2019.
The push for pull
During the first phase of the Pull Strategy, we provided local advocates—consumer associations and groups for parents of children with disabilities—with technical assistance to determine if foods marketed as fortified met the country’s fortification standards. During the second phase in Uganda, advocacy groups conducted a second analysis of fortified foods and followed up with food producers that proved to be non-compliant. In Malawi, advocacy groups leveraged national media to give those impacted by nutrition-related birth defects a chance to share their stories and reiterate the importance of fortification with food producers and the government.
New approach, proven results
The Pull Strategy empowers local advocates to build evidence-based recommendations that governments and food producers can use to improve adherence to national fortification standards. In Uganda, we saw a marked improvement in compliance to national standards for vegetable oil and wheat flour following the implementation of the Pull Strategy as a result of sharing market analysis results and engaging with food producers and parent groups of children with birth defects of the spine.
Using lessons learned from Malawi and Uganda, we published a Pull Strategy report and toolkit. The toolkit will serve as a resource for other countries—particularly those where national efforts to obtain quality information through government regulatory inspectors are constrained—to strengthen food fortification monitoring and advocacy.