Helping Tanzania's Urban Millers Tackle Malnutrition

Published on 05 August 2013

Members of the WANAMA SACCOS working in a small milling plant display their new protective safety gear. Copyright: WFP/Jenna Cattermole.

On a crowded residential street in Dar es Salaam, a thriving community of small and medium-scale millers works among shops and homes. Some150 millers are running complex operations from their very basic premises, buying maize and processing it to supply maize flour to the rest of the country.

The millers, the majority whom are members of WANAMA SACCOS (a farmers' organization that serves as a savings and credit organization for members), are a unique group in that each miller acts on an individual basis. The millers buy, process and sell maize flour as independent businesses and their flour is shipped to more than six regions around the country, including Dar es Salaam itself. Each small plant can produce anything from five to 30 metric tons of maize flour per day, depending on the season. Raw product maize is bought mainly from Dodoma, processed, and sold to wholesalers and retailers in the capital and surrounding regions.

 
Last year, WFP conducted a feasibility study in the plants to assess the possibility of introducing food fortification into the millers’ work, in line with a national food fortification programme. This would see all maize flour produced in these plants being fortified with iron, folic acid, B12, and zinc, helping the Government in attempts to combat malnutrition in the country. However, the study found that the populated area where the millers are based gives rise to a number of health and safety issues which need to be addressed before fortification can take place.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Tanzanian Food and Drug Authority, and the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre, WFP launched training sessions in June 2013. Plant owners and 40 foremen and women received training in business management, processing, fortification and food safety.

Fatima Ally, the owner of Izigo Super Sembe millers which employs seven workers, took part in the training and says it made a real difference to storage and organization in her mill.

 

“I've been in the grain business for 10 years", she says. "Now, we're storing sacks of food off the floor to avoid moisture damage, and we have a clear production line in place – from sorting, to de-hulling, to winnowing and actual milling. Because everything is now in a logical order, there's no longer any congestion and we can work faster.”

Mr Majaliwa, owner of Kaka Super Sembe millers, said that he and his foreman have not yet attended the training – but this has not stopped them from adopting the health and safety measures recommended by their colleagues.

 

“Other plant owners came back from the training and explained the importance of using proper safety gear, having handwashing facilities, and efficient storage and use of space," he says. "Now, all my workers wear masks, protective eyewear and headscarves, and we have reorganized our small space to avoid congestion in the production line.”

 

Mr Majaliwa’s workers have also designed and started wearing their own uniforms. He believes his mill can make a real contribution to the food fortification programme and ultimately to the battle against malnutrition in Tanzania.