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Rooting out malnutrition

Creating a sustainable and healthy food system for Ghana and beyond.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Agromyx Company Limited

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.agromyx.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Accra

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Ghana

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Volta Region of Ghana; the Volta River is one of Africa’s major streams

What country is your selected Place located in?

Ghana, West Africa

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I grew up in Ghana and spent most of my life here. Food, or better: the broken food system, was a daily challenge for my parents. Despite the hard challenges I love my place. This is my country, my future! And with me the future of millions of others.

I later learned that the problems of a completely insufficient food system are not just limited to Ghana. They can be found across much of Africa. As I consider myself a Citizen of Africa, I decided to leave the camp of complainers, and take the future into my own hands. Two years ago I formed Agromyx with a clear mission in mind: to once and forever eradicate malnutrition in Africa.

My father used to work with communities to help them improving their lives. His work had a great impact, not only in Ghana but across the entire sub-Saharan region. I followed him on every step. He taught me how to be passionate, focused and committed. But I also learned that it needs more than a single person to achieve a mission; one needs to build a network of relevant stakeholders and nurture this system like a garden of fruit trees.

Today, my team sources fruits and grains from the land I grew up on. We know the farmers, their problems and their dreams. Africans are full of dreams. We just have to bundle our energy for the common good.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Volta Region is located along the southern half of the eastern border of Ghana, The Eastern and Brong Ahafo Regions as well as the metropolitan area of Accra, Ghana’s capital, border to Togo. To the South is the Gulf of Guinea.

Political system

Despite political stability, Ghana still suffering effects of corruption .The corruption epidemic remains a major concern, as do more practical operational deterrents – such as lack of infrastructure and unreliable power sources. This affects rural areas including the Volta Region.

Population

The Volta Region accounts for 8.6 per cent of the country’s population with the majority (73%) living in rural areas. The literacy rate is 58%.Many of the urbanized parts of the region are in the South; these include Keta Province, where more than half  of the population live in urban areas. In Ho, the regional district capital, around one third of the population live in urban areas. South Tongu is least urbanized.

People historically followed traditional religions. However, with the arrival of Christianity 150 years ago, many converted. While the Ewe, Guan and Akan tribes are mostly Christians, the majority of the Hausa, Kyamba, Kotokoli, Kokomba, Nanumba and Gurma, are Muslims.

 

Vegetation

The region stretches for about 500 kilometers from North to South. It encompasses most of the vegetation zones found in the country. These are coastal grassland and mangrove swamps, sand beaches, and the Guinea Savannah which itself includes moist semi-deciduous forests in the Central Highlands, the Sahel Savannah and the mountainous wooded savannah in the North.

Climate

As in all other parts of the country, the Volta Region has a tropical climate with temperatures between 70 and 90°F for most of the year. There are two rainy seasons: the first from March to July and the second from mid-August to October.

Rainfall varies greatly throughout the region; it is highest in the Central Highland. The Volta Lake 8,500 square kilometers) has a large impact on the microclimate.  

Infrastructure

The Volta Region has one of the poorest road networks in the country. Highways are largely absent or in poor condition. As a consequence, transportation of goods is time consuming and challenging, even more so in poor weather conditions. A cool system for food logistics is basically non-existing.

Telecommunication systems in the Volta Region are mediocre at best. Ghana Telecom serves customers’ needs with a landline infrastructure. In addition, various mobile phone companies offer their services. Teledensity for the region is the lowest in the country (0.1 per 100 persons). The national average is 0.7, compared with 3.2 per 100 persons for Greater Accra.

Economy

The majority of the region’s population is engaged in agriculture. A large amount of one million hectares of land is suitable for the cultivation of crops. Currently only 29% of all arable land of the region is under cultivation. Major agricultural products include cocoa, maize, rice, sorghum, cassava, yam, cocoyam, plantain, fruits and vegetables.


What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

20500

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

30000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

While the Volta Region’s food system can be described as a major fruits and grains basket for Ghana it faces major challenges that in fact might increase over time.

Challenges include:

Post-harvest loss

  • 20% to 40% of produce are lost, driven by ineffective farming and harvesting, poor transportation methods and lack of good preservation methods.
  • If post-harvest loss would stay at the current level, undernourishment will significantly rise in the next 30 years, due to a high fertility rate of 3.9.

Malnourishment

  • 23% of people in the Volta Region are undernourished. At the same time prevalence of obesity is high and rising, due to lack of adequate food, lack of knowledge, and promotional practices of international food companies.
  • In the Volta region of Ghana, diet largely relies on starchy roots (cassava, yams), fruit (plantain) and cereals (maize, rice). Starchy roots and cereals still supply almost three quarters of the dietary energy and diversity of the diet remains low. The dietary supply meets population energy requirements, but the share of protein and of lipids in the dietary energy supply is lower than recommendations.
  • Fish is the most important source of animal protein and is consumed in all regions of Ghana, by both the poor and the rich, and in both rural and urban areas, providing Ghanaians with up to 60 percent of their animal protein requirements.
  • The population is expected to rise by a further 3.2 Million/5.8 until 2050, thereby putting additional pressure on an already weak food system.

Lack of Processing and Preservation Know-How

  • Banana remains the single most important non-traditional export crop and employment generator, engaging over 5,000 direct employees in the Volta Region, harvesting 9,000 Mt.
  • Currently, Ghana exports about 65,000 Mt of banana which account for about 1% of global banana exports.
  • The total postharvest loss of banana is estimated to be 26%, whereas 56% of the loss occurred at the retail level, while 27% and 17% of the losses occur at wholesale and farm levels, respectively.
  • Ghana’s annual tomato produce is 510,000 Mt with about 30% being lost. It is also a major Volta crop.
  • Ghana has made pushes into strengthening its own food processing, but much remains to be done.
  • Poor and insufficient transportation in the region cause food damage, spoilage and loss.
  • Rapid urbanization has modified food consumption patterns in urban areas like Ho, Aflao… Over the last decade, prevalence of undernourishment has decreased considerably. However, food insecurity persists, mainly due to unstable production, insufficient purchasing power and problems of physical access due to a lack of road infrastructure in the region.

Poor Infrastructure and Urbanization

A currently already weak infrastructure will be further put under stress if population growth and urbanization continue. It is estimated that about 23 % of population will move to urban areas in the next 30 years, whereas the rate among young and comparatively well educated people will be particularly high. This will increase pressure in urban areas on power consumption, infrastructure, food supply and safety.


Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

I, along with my team, intend to launch the ‘Volta Circular Economy Movement’, whereas:

  • Agromyx will take center stage and leadership, make its production technology for processing native fruits and grains into lasting, nourishing and healthy drinks and instant meals, plus other innovations that might come up in the next 30 years. Our starting product range will be Nurixel which partially has already obtained Ghana stand Board permission for retail sales, is free of additives and preservatives (‘superfood’), and packed in environmentally safe packaging.

We will assemble around Agromyx a team of academics, experts, talents and organization that will ensure we have a great reach for making the transitions we intend. In detail:

  • A team of nutritionists, agriculture researchers and academics from local universities, this with the aim to produce food from native plants and trees: safe, healthy, nutritious, with low ecological footprint. This initiative has already started.
  • Joining forces with local media and young journalists to push the idea of circular (agricultural) communities, thereby improving livelihoods of local farmers and maintaining their social structures
  • Lobbying politicians to (i) support the ideas of circular economies and (ii) learn from the Asian Tiger states.
  • Encouraging social and impact investors to help making the Volta Region a showcase for achieving a sustainable and replicable food system.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

By 2050, the Volta Region will be a circular economy with a healthy food system, with the following key differences to today’s situation:

  • Rural areas will produce the majority of meat and agriculture produce that is being consumed in the region itself.
  • Urban farming will have take hold in Accra, the nation’s capital.
  • The rural areas will provide sufficient educational and entertainment opportunities, not the least due to utilization technological advancements in processing, infrastructure and communications.
  • The region’s population will inhale an attitude of ‘Food and Farm is Fun’, in which it is not considered bad to remain a farmer and where the satisfaction derives from a fulfilling life where the role of food production and processing is valued.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

At the center of the Volta Region 2050 Agenda is a circular economy that governs the food system. Its major aim is to eradicate malnutrition. Several other aims will exist to make it a functioning and replicable food system. It is obvious that Agromyx cannot alone achieve that vision but will rely on the support of its own employees, customers, suppliers, policy makers, scholars, media and local and international social (impact) investors.

 

Agriculture plays a dual role in the abolition of hunger - it produces the food and it can also produce a great many of the jobs needed by households to buy food. Since agriculture is the world's single largest employer, raising productivity can immediately place additional purchasing power in the hands of the rural poor, who will in turn use the additional income for buying more food and other basic consumer goods. The increased agricultural produce can become raw material for a wide range of agro-based industries and services, stimulating the formation of new enterprises and creating downstream jobs.

Agriculture faces many challenges, making it more and more difficult to achieve its primary objective --‐ feeding the world – each year. Population growth and changes in diet associated with rising incomes drive greater demand for food and other agricultural products, while global food systems are increasingly threatened by land degradation, climate change, and other stressors. Uncertainties exist about regional and local impacts of climate change, but the overall global pattern suggests that the stability of the food system will be at greater risk due to short-term variability in food supply.  

Healthier diets and less food loss and waste must be integral components of future sustainable food systems. Given the diversity of causes involved, solutions for that need to be flexible, targeted, and applied in a local context, with strong government leadership at all levels as well as participation by all key actors along the food chain, including the food industry. Greater coordination among agriculture and health extension workers would be beneficial. 

At Agromyx, we work directly with small holder farmers by processing their fresh produce (mango, tomato, cereals) into powder without adding any preservative or additive. These products have more stable shelf life of over a year and are used to prepare meals. By doing so, Agromyx and its Nurixel product range helps bridging the nutritional gap in off-harvest seasons.

Agromyx works with fruits and grains that are native to the region. In some cases we use grains that have become out of fashion and fell victim to the promotional practices of large global food producers.

A major ingredient into our marketing mix – which naturally includes ‘product’ as a major component – is to avoid shipping produce and packaged goods over large distances. Agromyx is not into exporting vast amounts of packaged goods across the oceans. Instead, Agromyx with its current product Nurixel and with any future other products, aims to build replicable circular economies.

At the center of such economies are the farmers, in our case in the Volta Region. The systems, containing effective farming and harvesting, modern processing, quality control, safe packaging and sales, shall be based on local produce. We will intentionally forego opportunities that grossly violate the foundation of circular economies. Why shipping a Japanese apple to a Berlin supermarket when right outside Berlin plenty of apple trees grow?

In order to make the system complete, urban areas must be integrated which is particularly challenging. However, with increased global communication and information-sharing, plus the support of local stakeholders we aim for, we believe environmentally conscious life styles, nutritional consciousness and urban farming can be implemented. Accra’s membership in the Global C40 Cities network makes it a suitable venue for innovative concepts.

Agromyx’ on-going relationships with social investors, such as Fledge in Seattle (USA) will play an important role in spreading the vision and achieving the intended impact.

Indeed, we realize that Agromyx alone cannot achieve what we have in mind. I as the founder do though firmly believe that a single person can create a movement and trigger an impact way beyond his own reach and capabilities. It is for this reason that I reach out today to the Rockefeller Foundation.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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