The Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project Better Nutrition, Brighter Future Solving malnutrition in developing countries Changing the world through social business

Contributing to a Brighter Future of Children through Nutritional Improvement

What is the Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project?

Since its foundation, the Ajinomoto Group has built up a wealth of knowledge in the fields of food and amino acids, which it today utilizes to help solve the pressing issue of malnutrition in developing countries.
The Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project was launched to achieve the aforementioned aspiration via a social business. Under this project, we manufacture and sell a supplement that improves the nutritional balance of weaning food, thereby helping improve the nutritional status of local children in the weaning period. The Ajinomoto Group started this project in fiscal 2009 as part of initiatives to commemorate its centenary. The Group has since been steadily implementing the project in cooperation with the government of Ghana, the University of Ghana, and other international NGOs and corporates.
Eating nutritious food is essential to the lives of people. Starting with the project in Ghana, we will continue to take on the challenge of helping improve the nutritional status of children for their brighter future.

Republic of Ghana Capital: Accra
Area: 238,537 km2 (about two-thirds of the area of Japan) Population : About 25 million (UNFPA 2011) Main industries : Agriculture accounts for about 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and about 60% of employment. Source: Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan

Malnutrition poses a serious challenge in developing countries

  • 1 billion Number of starving/malnourished people
  • 2 billion Number of people suffering from vitamin/mineral deficiencies
  • 2.6 million Annual number of deaths due to malnutrition among children under five years old

Those with an annual income of 3,000 dollars or less (so-called Base of the Pyramid: BOP) account for about 60% of the world's population or 4.1 billion people. Most of these low-income earners live in developing countries, where there are a range of social issues, including serious problems related to the growth retardation and high mortality rate of infants.

The Ajinomoto Group is endeavoring to help solve these problems from the viewpoint of nutritional improvement.

Contribution to the attainment of the MDGs
  • *The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals comprise eight goals aimed at solving problems related to poverty in developing countries, with the overall goal to reduce global poverty by half by 2015, through cooperation among relevant organizations including national governments and the United Nations itself. Based on international development targets, the goals were officially established with the United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by 189 countries including Japan, along with deadlines for achieving targets and indicators to measure progress.

The First 1,000 days For a More Sound and Brighter Future of Children

Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days Provides the Foundation for Children's Future

Malnutrition, which is a serious issue in developing countries, gives various adverse effects to the physical and intellectual growth of children. In these countries, it is critical to improve the nutritional status of children especially during their first 1,000 days or the first three years from conception to their second birthday, because it is said that the growth retardation of children during the period cannot easily be recovered even by sufficient nutritional intake in the subsequent stages of their lives. In response, the Ajinomoto Group launched a project to address malnutrition among weaning infants aged between six months and two years. Under the project we will contribute to a sound future of local children by providing a supplement to be added to the traditional porridge called koko, which is fed to weaned infants in Ghana but is deficient in nutrients such as protein and micronutrients.

Ghanaian Children Stunted by Malnutrition

Compared with breast milk, which has the ideal composition of amino acids, weaning food made mainly from cereals tend to lack necessary nutrients, such as lysine, one of the essential amino acids and micronutrients. In Ghana, malnutrition during the weaning period, which starts when babies become six months old, causes the poor growth of infants, and 30% to 40% of those aged two years old are stunted. It is said that such children tend to have problems also regarding intellectual growth and the development of the immune system.

  • Source : Ghana Health Service (GHS)

KOKO Plus Helps Improve the Nutritional Balance of Weaning Food

Koko, which is a traditional weaning food in Ghana, is a porridge made with fermented corn. This meal does not meet the nutritional requirements recommended by the WHO and other organizations because it is deficient in energy, protein, and micronutrients. In response, we have developed KOKO Plus as a nutrition supplement containing an amino acid to be added to koko in the cooking process to cover the nutritional deficiency of the meal.
After conducting tests on preservation stability and surveys on taste, we obtained approvals from the government of Ghana to conduct tests to confirm the nutritional effect of the supplement and to manufacture the product. We are now proceeding with tests to confirm the nutritional effect, as well as conducting pilot sales of the product to build up a necessary distribution model in villages. We plan to start selling the product full scale in the fiscal year of 2014.


Creating a Brighter Future through Partnerships Social Business Pursued by the Ajinomoto Group

In conducting social business in developing countries, we need to overcome a range of problems specific to such countries, and it is difficult for a company to handle all of the problems on its own. We therefore aim to build a new sustainable business model in a more effective and efficient manner by forming partnerships to foster open innovation with the local government and other local stakeholders, experienced NGOs, international organizations and other corporate entities.

  • In Depth Understanding of Local Needs
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  • Producing Locally with a Local Partner
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  • Communicating the Importance of Nutrition to Local Mothers
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  • Building up a Innovative Distribution Model
In depth Understanding of Local Needs We need to identify local needs in order to provide local people with a product that helps them improve their nutritional status in a way that suits local food culture and tastes at an affordable price. To meet this requirement, it is essential to conduct joint research and foster collaboration with local research institutes, including a university, NGOs, and NPOs.
Producing Locally with a Local Partner Local production using locally grown soybeans and other ingredients helps foster local agriculture and create employment, we are building up a sustainable business model by transferring our technologies, know-how on quality assurance to our local production partner, Yedent, a food company in Ghana.
Building up a Innovative Distribution Model In Ghana, there are areas with few retail stores due to the lack of necessary distribution infrastructure. In response, we are cooperating with an international NGO implementing a program to support the empowerment of women in the northern part of the country, to develop a local system for women of each village to serve as salespersons for the product, in addition to promoting sales through the traditional distribution route.
Communicating the Importance of Nutrition to Local Mothers It is necessary for local mothers to have correct knowledge about nutrition as a precondition to encourage the mothers to make appropriate use of KOKO Plus to improve the nutritional status of their children. To this end we are providing local mothers with nutritional education in cooperation with Ghana Health Service, a Ghanaian government organization and NGOs.
  • JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency
  • University of Ghana
  • INF US-based NPO tackling nutrition-related problems
  • Plan International NGO conducting activities with a focus on children
  • ESM Social marketing company headquartered in South Africa
  • USAID United States Agency for International Development
  • CARE International NGO aims at poverty reduction
  • GAIN NPO committed to solving the world's malnutrition problems
  • Ghana Health Service (GHS)
  • Yedent A food company in Ghana
  • DSM Life science company based in the Netherlands

Partners' Aspirations and Expectations

INF Dr. Shibani Ghosh Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation (INF)

INF, in partnership with the Ajinomoto Group, has conducted studies to examine the effect of Lysine, an essential amino acid, on the improvement in nutrition, immunity and health status of people in developing countries since 1995. In this project, we are working with the Ajinomoto Group and the University of Ghana through a unique partnership that allows for translating scientific knowledge obtained through the studies into practice. The joint project is testing the potential for a low cost nutritious supplement in improving growth of infants and young children in Ghana, a concept that is applicable globally in at least 20 countries that have high rates of chronic malnutrition. We are pleased to be able to contribute towards the improvement of infants and young children globally through this joint project.

University of Ghana Prof. Kwaku Tano-Debrah Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana

The University of Ghana(UG), through the Department of Nutrition & Food Science, is very happy to be involved in this project, which is a clear model of the Public-Private-Partnership approach of solving community health and social problems. Childhood malnutrition is indeed a problem in Ghana that merits interventions. The University of Ghana is proud to be involved in such a demand-driven research that would significantly address this malnutrition problem. Some of the roles of UG are to serve as the local host of the project and facilitate the close collaboration with agents of the Ghanaian government, such as Ghana Health Service and Food and Drug Authority, which is crucial for the success of the joint project. We do hope to create Win-Win situation for all the stake holders thorough this international joint project.