OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Inclusive and sustainable micronutrient security for the Lake Zone of Tanzania

We are scaling access to healthy and safe maize flour in the Lake Zone by transforming the food system around flour processing.

Photo of Anne Wanlund
6 3

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Project Healthy Children - Sanku Fortification

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

1. BioAnalyt: Private Company. Product innovator of diagnostics and food testing with a mission to democratize nutrient testing | 2. TechnoServe Tanzania: Non-profit. Harnesses the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty | 3. USAID/NAFAKA: Project. Encourages the successful adoption of improved technologies and agricultural practices that improve productivity, competitiveness, and nutrition for targeted smallholders. | 4. Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre: Government Agency. The source of the Tanzanian Government's policies to deal with malnutrition in the country. | 5. BASF: Private Company. The second largest chemical producer in the world, producing high-quality micronutrients | 6. MoHCDEC: Government Ministry. The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in Tanzania | 7. AIT Ingredients: Private Company. Enables food manufacturers to create value for their own consumers worldwide

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • 3-10 years

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

Dar es Salaam

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

The Lake Zone

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We selected the Lake Zone because it reflects the greatest food system challenges and opportunities in Tanzania. It contains some of the most food and nutrient insecure regions in Tanzania, with high levels of childhood and maternal micronutrient malnutrition. It is also home to many of our employees, and is a model of growing industry in the country. The Lake Zone is important to us because we are already scaling access to lifesaving micronutrients there as part of our expanding work in 20 regions in Tanzania, reaching 2 million people with Vitamin B12, Zinc, Folic Acid and Iron, daily. With the support of local officials, the people of the Lake Zone will be our partners in realizing our shared vision for healthier, safer maize flour and complementary nutrient-dense foods. 

Given the Lake Zone’s geography and significant cross-border dynamics, there is ample opportunity to transform its food system through the lens of the climactic pressures the area will continue to face. Of all the agro-ecological zones in Tanzania, the Lake Zone has consistently experienced the worst droughts over the last 20 years. It is in dire need of scalable, sustainable food system improvements that address the source, treatment, marketing, and policy environments around maize in particular. Our team has already identified hundreds of commercial maize flour millers with the potential to fortify their flour to reach every Lake Zone resident, and we see great opportunity to leverage our work to do much more, creating a complementary safe, whole foods system around the country’s most beloved food. Creating an inclusive, nutrient-focused food system in the Lake Zone will also be scalable to other zones across Tanzania and within the region. The need and the opportunity for an improved food system in the Lake Zone inspires us, and we believe our partners and others will be inspired to bring food system solutions to the area.

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.

The Lake Zone is one of the agro-ecological zones of Tanzania, and boasts beautiful rolling hills, valleys and rivers, a major trans-boundary lake, and mountains. Fed by several rivers and Lake Victoria, most of the Lake Zone's population are farmers. The majority of their income comes from the sale of crops, primarily starchy staples. They are also fishermen and pastoralists. The people of the Lake Zone consume a diet of mainly maize flour, cassava, beans, vegetables, meats, and fish. The four Lake Zone regions are Kagera, Mwanza, Mara, and Shinyanga which cradle Lake Victoria to the South. Together, these regions make up 14% of the total population of Tanzania. The westernmost regions of these border Burundi and Rwanda. They are bustling with industry, trade, and cross-border cultural exports and customs.They also host refugees fleeing neighboring political unrest. These regions have a diversity of local and neighboring tribes, many coming from the very large ethnic group, the “Ha” people, who are a Bantu tribe. This tribe is able to easily converse with other Bantu languages in Burundi and Rwanda, facilitating trade and shared culture. While the primary source of income is from the cultivation of crops -- largely, maize, cassava, and banana production -- many are subsistence farmers with plot sizes of less than one hectare. Lake Zone residents also grow millet and sorghum. And, like their fellow Tanzanians across the country, they are processors who mill maize, rice, and produce sunflower oil. 

The Tanzanian diet is heavily focused on starchy, calorie-dense, but nutrient-poor foods. Groundnuts and leafy greens are grown throughout Tanzania, but are not consumed as much as other foods. In the Lake Zone, maize makes up the largest component of local diets with 32% of calories, followed by cassava at 19%. Fish is the main source of protein. The Lake Zone diet is deficient in protein as well as most micronutrients. Unfortunately, food is more expensive for Lake Zone residents as compared to other geographic areas in Tanzania, and the lowest income groups are relatively more food insecure in the Lake Zone than they are elsewhere. Incomes in the Lake Zone are also lower compared to other zones, including the Southern Highlands. 

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


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


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

In the Lake Zone of Tanzania, maize flour is the most commonly consumed food. Depending on income levels, flour can account for ~50% of calories in the Tanzanian diet, but is devoid of essential nutrients necessary for maternal and child health. Chronic malnutrition rates for children under five in the Lake Zone have stalled around 42%, and anaemia in reproductive age women is on the rise throughout the country, currently 45%. For pregnant women, this number is closer to 57%. While the government continues to have a fortification standard in place, it is only enforced at the large-scale, national level. There is no affordable technology to test fortification levels in flour in Tanzania, so what exists is used sparingly at the national level. While the technology and model are in place to fortify small-scale maize flour, this has not yet been scaled throughout the Lake Zone. This means that the population is denied the critical health benefits of having nutrient-enriched maize flour. 

Though it is the most beloved food among Tanzanians, consuming maize flour has other challenges. Raw maize storage is unregulated, causing elevated levels of aflatoxins that have led to poisoning and death in recent years. Prolonged exposure to aflatoxins have been shown to cause liver cancer, depress immune systems, and lead to malnutrition. Because the maize milling industry is decentralized, over 90% of Tanzanians consume their flour from small-scale mills. Fortification and hygiene standards at these mills are not well enforced. In addition, there are many thousands of mills that act as “service” mills that collect a fee for use of their machine. These mills are completely unregulated. 

Finally, the demand for maize flour is inelastic and the maize market is volatile. The Government of Tanzania has the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to store and release maize to prevent food insecurity, but they have fallen short of their mission. Producers, processors, and consumers suffer from price fluctuations and a lack of ability to plan accordingly. In the future, if these issues are not addressed, the negative outcomes associated with them will accelerate, leading to a higher burden of malnutrition on the population and health system in the Lake Zone. 

Climate change is already leading to unpredictable and less productive maize harvests for farmers, causing price hikes and shortages. Industrialization is a top priority for the Government of Tanzania, and corresponding urbanization will put more pressure on the existing food system. Non-communicable diseases are on the rise, including diabetes and kidney disease, which are linked to the high level of processed foods in Lake Zone residents’ diet.

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

Every Lake Zone resident, regardless of how or where they access their food, has a right to proper nutrition. To address micronutrient malnutrition in the region, small-scale fortification will be scaled to the entire Lake Zone, adding Vitamin B12, Zinc, bioavailable Iron, and Folic Acid into maize flour during the milling process. Sanku’s award-winning technology, the dosifier, automatically doses precise levels of nutrients into flour as it is being milled, based on the Tanzanian Maize Flour Fortification Standard. The dosifier is effective at adding nutrients into flour, and we believe it can also make safer, aflatoxin-free flour. Our dosifiers currently send data every five minutes on production and machine servicing needs, so we will build the corresponding data infrastructure to include aflatoxins alerts. We will provide key enforcement stakeholders access to the live data, so they can follow up with mills that are milling maize containing high levels of aflatoxins. Limiting aflatoxins in the flour will improve health outcomes for Lake Zone residents. 

With aflatoxin detection technology at the mill, the risk of consuming whole grain maize flour known as “dona” will decrease significantly. As a less processed and more nutritious food, dona has the potential to improve health and nutrition outcomes and prevent the rise of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and kidney disease. Dona currently only comprises 5% of the total market share, and we believe this could increase to close to 30% by 2050. When maize is de-hulled during the milling process, the hulls are often sold for animal feed. We believe that there is a potential to offset the energy consumption of milling machines, by using the maize milling co-products as a source of biofuel. Biofuel is another way to put maize that is not suitable for human consumption or would go to waste otherwise to work, creating additional income for farmers and freeing up resources for millers. 

Having greater access to data and solutions, local officials will be able to bolster existing agencies to focus on enforcement. Tools to support this include BioAnalyt's iCheck as well as a paper-based Iron test developed by University of Illinois researchers, which will allow officials to cheaply detect fortification levels in maize flour on site. That test will be adapted to test NaFeEDTA iron, which is used throughout East Africa. An NFRA empowered with data will be able to better plan and time releasing maize reserves. NFRA will be able to purchase any excess maize produced by farmers to avoid post-harvest loss food waste. Responding to data from satellite imagery and historical and forecasted market trends will allow the government to continually adjust and make optimal policy decisions for farmers, millers, and consumers. With a push towards industrialization, the Government will have access to more sources of market data to ease tensions on the 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 assuring inclusive micronutrient security, we envision happier, healthier, more energetic lives for every Lake Zone resident.The greatest impact will be on rural children and women of reproductive age in the Lake Zone. Nutrient-rich, safe staple foods will allow mothers to have healthy babies and children to grow up to be productive adults. Life will be different for children in school feeding programs. Almost all schools across Tanzania provide maize flour for lunch, and the local government will mandate that all maize flour tenders have a fortification requirement. In addition to the energy this flour provides from calories, it will now be bolstered with nutrients to promote cognitive function, immune systems, and resistance to diarrheal disease. Aflatoxin levels in maize will decrease, which will decrease the burden on the health system. Patients will consume safely fortified maize flour for their lunches, accelerating their recoveries and supporting their immune systems. 

With this increased access to healthier staple foods, anaemia in pregnant women will decline, resulting in a decrease in postpartum hemorrhaging, preterm births, and low birthweight children. Business will be better for millers who are able to meet required health and safety standards. Their business expenses will decrease with more efficient milling machines, particularly with the use of maize milling co-products to be converted into biofuel. All millers will be producing better quality, nutrient fortified maize for all. Every person in the Lake Zone -- and Tanzania -- will be better off with government agencies enabled with the tools to better perform its core functions, controlling the supply and price of maize on the market so that farmers, millers, and consumers all benefit. Every adult will be able to invest their disposable income into more efficient uses, including education for their children and entrepreneurial ventures. 

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

As maize flour will continue to be a cherished part of Lake Zone residents’ diet, our vision is to transform the food system around maize flour to make it nutrient-rich and safe to consume. In order to optimize nutrition and health sustainably, all levels of the maize flour food system must be addressed, from production to processing, monitoring and distribution. Working hand in hand with farmers, millers and government officials across the Lake Zone, we believe we can drastically improve the local diet with low-impact technology that supports Tanzanian policies, celebrates the local taste for maize flour and improves the business environment around it. We envision a Lake Zone where every single person can access micronutrients from safe maize flour at the same price as unfortified flour. In order to achieve this vision, all components surrounding the maize value chain must work together to create a safer, more nourishing, sustainable food system. 

Never before in sub-Saharan Africa has fortification been able to reach rural populations sustainably at scale, or has a government been able to enforce fortification standards at the local level. This can be achieved, all while flour production has a lower carbon footprint and improves local business. We believe that every individual should be able to access the benefits of nutritious foods, and the food system must be structured around this goal. To have the greatest impact, we are focused primarily on the food that is most widely consumed and deeply ingrained in the culture. We will also leverage existing technologies, government agencies, policies, and trends to their full advantage to make all food as healthy and safe as possible. The Lake Zone in Tanzania can become an example of what inclusive nutrition should embody, so that it can be scaled across the country and the region. 

At the heart of the regenerative and nourishing future we envision are the consumers as the drivers of change around making maize flour healthier and safer through their environment, diets, local economy, culture, technology and policy. Biofortified or improved maize varieties will be made accessible to all farmers. Farmers will use improved varieties that are resistant to drought and army worm, which are two of the major threats to maize production. Given that much of the land in the Lake Zone is favorable to horticulture and staple crop production, this will involve better farming practices, including bean/maize intercropping and access to high-quality fertilizer. We will also work with smallholders to boost the production up of other nutritious crops to be combined with maize during the milling process to boost its nutritional value, including millet and sorghum, both of which are grown throughout the Lake Zone.

Our ideal food system brings in partners that are already making improvements for farmers’ maize production and storage, and this will feed into maize that is sold to local mills by making it more abundant and better quality. Consumers will be able to detect these improvements, as the taste for maize flour is deeply ingrained. 

Maize will be fortified at every single mill. Scaling Sanku’s small-scale fortification work to every commercial mill in the Lake Zone will allow all millers to dose the precise levels of essential micronutrients into the flour according to the Tanzanian standard. All flour produced will be fortified, which will mean that unregulated, dangerous, unhygienic mills will no longer be allowed to operate. 

All new technologies introduced will have little or no carbon footprint, and aflatoxins will be detected at the mill and stopped. At the mill, the dosifier that adds micronutrients into the flour will be detecting and reporting maize that is too high in aflatoxins to enforcement stakeholders using our dosifier’s existing remote cellular data transmission technology. This will enable local government to be able to perform their core functions as well as protect the health and nutrition status of consumers. 

This maize, as well as maize co-products, can be repurposed into biofuel. Biofuel from maize milling co-products will replace current fuel sources. Even the most modest and rural mills will be getting safe, high-quality, whole grain fortified flour to the people who need it most. These mills will be running off biofuel from maize milling co-products. 

With the hundreds of mills in the Lake Zone using biofuel for energy, the impact of the milling industry on the environment will be significantly reduced, and it will decrease the amount of food waste. 

Standards around maize flour fortification and standards will be enforced. There will be fewer, but more productive mills feeding the entire population with fortified flour. Once the government is able to enforce fortification and aflatoxin standards, this will result in the closure of “service” mills, which are unsafe and inefficient. Maize flour will only be produced by regulated mills that meet safety and quality standards, ensuring that no one consumes hazardous foods.

The mills that are able to continue in the food system as they are able to meet the new safety and health standards will be more productive, efficient, and will be able to access loans to expand their businesses as they are part of a more regulated sector. We will be able to provide credit risk data to banks, given how closely we work with processors, which will allow them to make important investments in their mills to become safer and more productive, and to have the working capital to purchase maize year round. These mills will also be cleaner, using safe maize that will be overseen by local officials who are empowered with inexpensive, efficient technology and data to do their jobs more efficiently. 

All local officials will have the mandate and the capacity to perform their regulatory and enforcement jobs, taking pride in the role that their work is having on health within the local population. We are confident that the promise of new technologies and better data, local officials will be able to address many of the current challenges around the maize market. They will be able to perform its core function of protecting food security by controlling the price of maize and maize flour to prevent producers and processors from taking unfair advantage of market dynamics to the detriment of consumers. Maize prices will be stable, allowing farmers and consumers to improve planning, which will improve food security. 

This will also ensure that the population of the Lake Zone remains at the center of driving the solution at all levels. We believe that empowered farmers will be able to invest their incomes back into their farms year after year, protected by strong policies. 

Fortified maize will be available in all government institutions, including schools and hospitals. As all maize flour will be fortified, it will be available to every school-age child through school feeding programs and will be mandated for any government tender serving government institutions, including hospitals and prisons. These groups are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition and associated diseases, and are in the greatest need of nutrient-enriched foods. 

With all of these changes to the food system, Lake Zone residents will expect fortified, safe maize. By 2050, all consumers will be demanding that the food so deeply ingrained in their culture is produced at a standard that protects their health and the well-being of their children. What will be available to them on the market will reflect this standard, because the technology and policies will be in place to support it. Given our experience in Tanzania and in nutrition programs broadly, we do not envision that people will want to significantly change the food of their culture in terms of taste, smell, or cook. Nor would we ask that they abandon the traditions of their home or the culture surrounding cherished food. But we believe that once fortification is scaled throughout the Lake Zone, consumers will demand that their flour meets new health and safety standards. In 2050, the food system will continue to honor the tradition of maize flour for meals in a way that is nourishing and safe.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
View more

Attachments (7)

Sanku's Vision.mp4

Sanku's mission and vision for the future.

2020-01-28 Sanku cutsheet.pdf

Overview of Sanku's model

The Life You Can Save - Sanku.pdf

How we work, from one of our most important donors

Sanku Dosifier Overview.pdf

How the dosifier works

BioAnalyt & Sanku.png

Example of how we partner with one of our vision's partners

FastCo - Sanku - Most Innovative Companies.png

Our innovative model's recognition

Sanku Dosifier - TIME Invention of the Year.png

Our innovative technology's recognition


Join the conversation:

Photo of Archiebold Manasseh

Nice project! all the best

View all comments