The Gbumbgum group of salt sellers counts among 30 women who are both entrepreneurs and activists raising awareness about the importance of iodine in a healthy diet. Copyright: WFP/Marco Frattini
A group of businesswomen in the Gbumbgum region of northeastern Ghana has found a route out of poverty through a product which their community badly needs—iodated salt. Iodine deficiency is rampant in Gbumbgum, where the swollen necks of people suffering from goitre are a common sight. Watch video
GBUMBGUM—Fatima Fuseini and her business partners sit around a table filling plastic bags with rock salt and sealing them with a packing machine. It’s tedious work, but Fatimah says it’s some of the best work she's ever done.
She and the other women around the table are their own bosses and the salt they're putting in packets belongs to them.
“We’re in business,” says Fuseini. “We sell our salt at the local market and we use the money to buy the things we need—like food.”
Learning the business
Fuseini and her partners weren’t always entrepreneurs. Like most businesses, theirs required know-how and capital to get off the ground. They received both through a WFP nutrition programme, which first gave them training in business management and then provided the seed capital they needed to get started.
The investment came in the form of iodated salt, a vital commodity in places like the Gbumgbum region of northeastern Ghana where iodine deficiency has reached endemic proportions.
78 per cent of children in Ghana are anaemic, and the proportion of women isn't far behind. To help combat malnutrition, WFP has launched a project to teach mothers the importance of micronutrients and train women to produce products like iodated salt. Find out how you can help
Some 56 per cent of adults in Gbumgbum suffer from goitre—an inflamed thyroid gland—which is caused by a lack of iodine.
An endemic problem
Iodine deficiency is also the leading cause of preventable brain damage in children worldwide. It’s estimated that iodizing salt protects over 91 million children per year from severe mental impairment.
Fuseini and her group resold the salt WFP gave them and used the returns to go into the salt business for themselves. In the process of marketing their wares, they’ve also become activists raising awareness about the importance of consuming enough iodine.
“Cooking with iodated salt will prevent you from getting goitre and will help your children to grow up strong and healthy,” says Fuseini.