Nepal Looks to Introduce Fortified Flour at Small Mills to Reduce Anemia

News Release | 28 December 2009

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Nepal will enlist the help of small millers to boost the production of fortified cereal flour, which can help reduce anemia and other illnesses linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly in poor, rural areas.

To support the government's goal, the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) - financed by the Government of Japan and administered by the Asian Development Bank - is providing a grant of $1.8 million for producing fortified flour at small, village-based milling centers, known as Chakki mills. The project is targeting the addition of iron, folic acid and vitamin A to milled wheat, maize and millet, benefiting around 200,000 people.

Anemia, caused by a lack of essential nutrients, is a major public health issue in Nepal, resulting in many maternal and perinatal deaths and development problems in children. Fortified flour, used to combat anemia, is now produced in large, commercial milling enterprises but this is only a small proportion of the total consumed, and cost, technology and other barriers have hindered its introduction at smaller mills.

The government, along with the Canadian non-government organization, Micronutrient Initiative, is now testing low-cost fortification systems at water and electric-powered Chakki mills and the JFPR-funded project will help accelerate and expand this process.

"Fortified flour can reduce national rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies within one year of implementation," said Snimer Sahni, Principal Project Economist in ADB's South Asia Department. "This project will define the conditions, capacities and resources needed for the sustainable expansion of small-mill flour fortification, benefiting the poor and vulnerable."

The project will seek to find realistic solutions to the problems that currently prevent flour fortification at small mills, such as recurring costs, supply and support system difficulties, quality assurance issues, and a lack of consumer awareness. Among the innovations it will consider are community-based financing options, including possible channels for converting grain received as payment for use of the milling facilities, into hard cash.

Community participation is a key element of the project, with 65 village development committees to receive resources for the delivery and monitoring of the use of nutrients by millers, for collecting payments, for providing quality assurance monitors, and for raising community awareness. The target is to provide 360 small millers with the equipment and training to produce about 19,000 metric tons of fortified flour which will give nutrition protection for more than 200,000 people for two years.

Once the project outcomes have been assessed, they may be expanded to other parts of Nepal through ADB's country assistance program.

Along with JFPR, the government will provide $122,000, the private sector $14,725, and beneficiaries about $130,000, for a total project cost of $2.066 million. The Ministry of Health and Population is the executing agency for the project which will run from 2010 to 2012.