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Accelerating and Supporting the Production, Trade and Consumption of Local Highly Nutritious Food Products in Africa

Photo of Binta Houma
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Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 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.

ICON founded by 16 Ashoka fellows from 9 countries : Dramane Coulibaly Organisation: CESAO Burkina Faso Simone Zoundi Organization: SODEPAL Burkina Faso Désiré Yameogo Orfganization: WEND PUIRE Burkina Faso Léon Badiara Organization: Genetic Center Burkina Faso Lassané Savadogo Organization: ASPMY ; Burkina Faso Antoine SOMBIE Organization : WOUOL ; Burkina Faso Ladji Niangane Organization: CAMS ; Mali Mene Blessing Organization: Bold Nutrition ; Nigeria Tantoh Nforba organization: Save the Future ; Cameroon Lawrence Afere Organization: Springboard ; Nigeria Africanfarmer Mogaji Organization: XrayFarm Consulting ; Nigeria Mama Manneh Organization: NATC ; Gambia Michel Babadjide Organization: La Maison du Paysan ; Benin Salim DARA Organization : Solidarité rurale ; Benin Salimata WADE Oranization : La Compagnie du Bien Manger ; Senegal Nicolas Métro Organization : Kinomé ; Togo

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • 1-3 years

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


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

AFRICA Sub Sahara Ashoka Africa operates from 4 regional offices ; The founding members are from 8 countries in West and Central Africa

What country is your selected Place located in?

AFRICA Sub Sahara

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with over 3,600 Fellows in over 80 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship and has activated multi-sector partnerships across the world which increasingly look to entrepreneurial talent and new ideas to solve social problems. Ashoka in Africa drives today a network of 500 social entrepreneurs.

Out of a network of 209 social entrepreneurs in West Africa, 35 of them present an innovation on nutrition issues. Thanks to several key partnerships, including with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and the Cartier Charitable Foundation, Ashoka has sourced and supported many leading social entrepreneurs,  in West Africa who have created powerful solutions that help communities, women and rural entrepreneurs address the economic, environmental and cultural challenges related to nutrition.

With CTA support Ashoka has launched ICON with 16 Ashoka fellows and their partner smallholder farmers’ households, schools, health facilities (75% women farmers and their children) across the 9 member countries in the West Africa region ( Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger).  These target countries have been selected in the pilot as they virtually share common cultures and inter trade linkage suit growing into a bigger market outlet.

These collaborative approaches between Ashoka fellows and between fellows and actors from the private and public sectors, aim to strengthen the individual impact of the innovations already in place, and aim to accelerate positive, systemic and far-reaching change. scale in Afrcia through a collective and multi-sector approach.

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.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the continent most affected by hunger, 1 in 4 persons is undernourished and the challenges of hunger and malnutrition rely on a complex value chain, thus requiring an integrated response from State actors, the international aid sector as well as from civil society and the private sector.

The African continent at large is faced with a rapid population growth, challenging States’ capacity to ensure sustainable food sourcing and guarantee the accessibility of major food products. Changing food and work habits -especially in cities- coupled with increasing food prices also constitute fundamental challenges, forcing households to take tough decisions.

Besides, weak market links, high transport costs and low investments in agricultural research and extension have constrained local agricultural production. There is very little value-addition and agro-processing, with smallholders selling only the raw products, limiting opportunities for growth, and often contributing to produce waste. The limited opportunities for growth are also due to weak market information and low bargaining power from smallholder farmers, women especially. Poor handling of knowledge leads to lower yields and poor quality reduces chances of private sector engagement. Women remain largely excluded from the most profitable parts of the value chain and so generally earn half that of men.

Last, there is also a severe lack of consumer knowledge on nutrition and how to prepare year-round nutritious food, and lack of availability of bio-fortified and high micronutrient food crops. In addition to poor understanding of nutrition, there is an on-going erosion of traditional coping strategies, such as use of dried leaf powders for year-round micro nutrient inputs, access to and use of harvested highly nutritious local food products.

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.

On micro-nutrient deficiencies, there is a severe lack of knowledge on nutrition and how to prepare year-round nutritious food, and lack of availability of bio-fortified and high micronutrient food crops. In addition to poor understanding of nutrition, there is an on-going erosion of traditional coping strategies. The food production faces to many challenges including the widening technology divide, climate change, lack of investment, slow development of input and output markets and associated market services, slow progress in regional integration, import dependency (FAO).

 These challenges are further being manifested with the following demographic statistics that will create an alarming glum situation in the Sahel region by indication that by 2020 100 million people will be in the region of Sahel and 200 million people by 2050 (CILLS report 2019). For the past two years the number of severely acutely malnourished children in the Sahel has risen. Combined with the number of under-fives and pregnant women who are moderately acutely malnourished, the number of malnourished in the region reaches 5 million. The situation often appears stable at national level however large sub-national disparities exist. Results from the 2018 nutrition surveys show a persistence in high prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM).

Few challenges facing the global community today match the scale of malnutrition, a condition that directly affects one in three people. Malnutrition and diet are by far the biggest risk factors for the global burden of disease: every country is facing a serious public health challenge from malnutrition. The economic consequences represent losses of 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent. The world’s countries have agreed on targets for nutrition, but despite some progress in recent years the world is off track to reach those targets. This third stocktaking of the state of the world’s nutrition points to ways to reverse this trend and end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Over the past decade, momentum around nutrition has been steadily building: In 2012 the World Health Assembly adopted the 2025 Global Targets for Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition. The following year, it went on to adopt targets for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including those relevant to nutrition. With the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 and with the recent naming of 2016–2025 as the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, more and more people have begun to recognize the importance of addressing malnutrition in all its forms. In 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals enshrined the objective of “ending all forms of malnutrition,” challenging the world to think and act differently on malnutrition—to focus on all its faces and work to end it, for all people, by 2030. (Malnutrition World Report 2016).

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

The project is built on Ashoka Africa support for strengthening Social Entrepreneur’s nutrition cluster who will become implementing partners in this project. The action takes an integrated approach to sustainable solutions.

Specific Mandates have been created based on the outcome of the specific objectives.

Objective 1: Building the capacities of ICON members

1: Create a sub-regional functional cooperative

- Entrepreneurs are better organized

- Skills enhanced on Advocacy and Negotiations for African Farmers

- Better and fair trade ensured for African producers

- Access new market outlets both Regional and External assured

2: Create online ICON Platform

- Increase of the visibility of the regional cooperative and its members

- Timely accessibility and delivery of goods and services assured

- Facilitation and expedition markets for the exchange of goods and services assured

- Better accessibility locally produced nutritive food products

- Quality of local products nutrition security assured

3: Sharing innovations with small scale farmers

- Fellows programs are scaled up

- +500 000 farmers acquired innovation skills

- Production of Quality and quantity local product foods

Objective 2: Creating Value Added for the local nutritive food products

1: Packaging Improvement

- Use of Sustainable packaging and recycling options

3: Powerful Collective Branding

- Creation of strong common brand for secured fair trade in Africa

Objective 3. Educate and Advocate on Nutrition

1: Adapting Nutrition School Kit

- Adoption of healthy eating lifestyle and quality nutritional food

- Families and children equipped with adequate information and knowledge on local food products

- Consumers and markets assured of nutritional fact per productions

2: Promoting local nutrition’s Solutions

- Better information for Consumers and local producers on local produced foods

- Consumers assured of local nutritious products available at the markets

3: Conducting Educational Campaigns

- Consumers and local processors are better educated

- Food ambassadors skills enhanced

- Adoption of NSK program by Schools and Policy makers

Objective 4. Scaling Up ICON in Africa Sub Sahara

Recruitment of New ICON Members

Duplication of ICON model through Ashoka Network

Dissemination of learning through Big partnership (AFDB, UA)

So far, after 2 years, the fundamentals of a bigger market outlet are established through a functional viable regional cooperative with affiliated branches in the member countries. Ashoka has documented innovations and solutions of ICON members which will be disseminated through a documentation center, trainings and key partnerships with African training institutes. All members have acquired a strong Business model and are becoming strategist in market approach. The Nutrition School Kit program is being piloted in Delta state, Nigeria, in 10 schools and +500 students are currently trained.

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.

The cooperative aims to reinforce the available resilient and high nutrition options and to tap into the existing community structures and habits to improve production and drive market demand for sustainable consumption of high micro nutrient locally produce foods. ICON will improve the consumption and value creation of highly nutritious food products in the region by increasing both the production capacity & access to market of the social entrepreneurs, as well as the nutritional education of local consumers. At the same time, education and sensitization campaign will be carried out to address the issue of eating healthy food and improve living conditions of rural families.

The project expects to increase the turnover of the ICON members by 50% in average, It aims to reach 500,000 additional stakeholders  within the network of producers, partners and consumers. In addition, it is expected that 5000 children who will have been sensitised on nutrition will change their eating habit accordingly and introduce quality and nutritious products into their diets.

Economic impact
• + de 50%  Turnover
• 100% of the cooperative products are fitting legal market regulations
• At least 700 000 of African families reached with nutritious products.
Social impact
•  17 000 youngyoung and female producers trained
• 20 schools and 3000 children educated to Nutrition
• All African producers in the Africa benefit from the innovations and technical knowledge
• Hundreds of thousand African families sensitized to local nutritious product consumption

Synergies will be created through close coordinations with FAO, WFP and AFDB and will involve them as technical experts, particularly on drafting legislation that will enhance ECOWAS and SADEC members countries to create a well balance non existing tariff barears between their members countries thus to enhance and facilitate free trade and movement of goods and services.

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

This project is expected to have the following impacts:

Environmental sustainability: Promotion of ‘climate-smart’ best agricultural practices will ensure environmental sustainability while supporting smallholder producers to build resilience to climate change. We will support ‘climate-smart’ agricultural practices to ensure resilience and environmental sustainability, building on proven experiences of prominent Ashoka Environmentalist with other reputable environmental regulatory institutions and other projects. Locally crops reached in secured nutrients are also promoted for their high level of resilience to adverse growing conditions, as they are climate-resilient.

Technical: the action is community focused in that it will develop the confidence and skills of 20,000 trained farmers to produce and process newly introduced bio fortified crops in nine member countries in West Africa regions. It also helps farmers potentially engage in business and become key actors in the value chains of the crops. It benefits from the expertise of Ashoka in working with fellows in both rural and semi town/cities in the West Africa the Sahel region and beyond to West Central, and East  Africa, school canteens and mothers clubs and with marketing federations, through the regional cooperative who will ensure the link between farmers and markets. In addition, the action will enhance the knowledge of mothers in nutritional health, particularly micronutrient-rich foods and cooking methods to ensure maximum nutrition for children and mothers in particular. Ashoka Africa adds value by bringing its knowledge of working with diverse experience range of fellows, protecting the rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable and experience in facilitating partnerships, capacity building and project management and compliance with International requirements.

Economic: the action is based on a creating demand for bio fortified crops, particularly new RICE, PM and OFSP varieties. This will allow farmers to set up businesses and generate income for themselves and their families through sales of their crops and derivate processed foods. The action also seeks to create profitable, sustainable business models linking smallholder farmers, input suppliers, seed producers, processors and end-consumers. The model is inspired by creating a platform through E-Commerce that will successful as a models trialled in ECOWAS and SADEC countries that are affiliated to the established regional cooperative to reach supermarkets. The action will also support informal value addition by promoting integration of OFSP in local businesses, powdered ALVs, plus links to informal and formal finance for their enterprises to expand. 

Social: a gendered-market assessment will be conducted to identify how women can best engage in and benefit from the value chains, the opportunities and challenges that they are faced with. Awareness rising on nutrition will provide communities with information to enable them and their children to have adequate nutrition for healthy lives. Improved technology will also free time for farmers, particularly women, to engage in other activities and to engage in off-season irrigated production improving livelihoods. Better nutrition for women and children will translate in better health and improved lifestyles.

Policy: The action will engage with government to create and enhance policy on fortification. Our approach will be to build the capacity of national institutions through their involvement in project activities. In engaging national actors from the field, we will lead a facilitated participatory approach with public and private entities to develop a road map of what could be implemented at policy level in the 9 member countries, ECOWAS, AU and WTO through Advocacy to ensure legislation on fortification of foods and commitments to implementation of other non bio-fortification initiatives. Part of the action will therefore be entirely dedicated to contributing to improving policy at individual national countries level including by sharing results and research from the field and from other none participating neighbouring countries.

 Possibilities for replication: replication will be possible in other none participating countries and abroad because the action will be stimulating new demand within processing industries and provides a multi faceted and multiple actor approach to addressing micro nutrient deficiency. There is significant potential for multiplier effects and added value beyond the scope of the direct implementation across several levels of the economy. The beneficiaries of these effects include:1) individual farmers (majority women and youths), through additional income, employment opportunities, acquisition of business management skills; 2) secondary services in the surrounding communities, through the emergence of secondary small- to medium-scale agri-businesses such as seed producers, flour processors/millers, transport contractors, etc. With more OFSP produced there will also be increased potential for local informal value addition; 3) women farmers, who will be managing milling machines as business; 4) local food products processing companies, through increased and sustained local food supply, new machinery and production of an innovative, nutritious product that is in high demand; 5) the countries, through increased employment opportunities, access to the industry for rural communities; 6) the countries, with improved policy for bio fortified foods and with increase import/export relations;7) serve as spring board in the articulation of ECOWAS principle and mandate of ensuring easy trade of goods  and services among its member states will be strengthened Dissemination of learning will be facilitated through farmer-to-farmer replication, extension services, training of trainers, use and adoption of school nutrition kits and mothers clubs: specifically for adoption of new technologies and agricultural practices, processing methods and food preparation for improved nutrition, all amplified through interactive community radio programs in local languages and the use and access to the online consumer platform. The action will encourage learning from the project (both successes and challenges) to enable others to replicate and to enable government to adopt similar strategies. Evidence of success will also be disseminated through the established documentation centre to encourage more private sector players to become involved. In addition, Ashoka fellow’s hub communication campaign will have a strong impact on spreading dissemination and will allow for monitoring of engagement with radio messaging through ICT services.

Sustainability: the action has been designed with a grassroots participatory approach to ensure sustainability and buy-in from communities and target populations. The overall objective is to improve the nutritional status of women and children in the larger West Africa Sub-Region through the adoption of bio fortified and local foods products – sustainability will be ensured by changes of diet and behaviour, which will start in the first year of the project. It will also empower fellows and their farmer producer partners  to be drivers of their own development and nutritional health by creating a market for locally produced foods and processed derivate: this will also contribute to sustainability. The action will also engage with government to advocate for the adoption of legislation on fortification, which would clearly ensure the long-term impact of the action in the entire ECOWAS states. This will ensure a continuous process of learning, knowledge management, analysis and reflection to ensure learning is embedded in implementation to achieve maximum impact and sustainability.

Financial sustainability:  Ashoka Africa and Fellows expect that by project end leading processors in all the 9 participating countries are successfully launching locally high quality branded foods -based products. This will also provide new locally high content nutrient secured food products for rural and urban populations. This will be guided by business plans on how the products will remain in the market including customer projections, number of small farmers, volumes required, expected profitability. To ensure a sustainable and viable business model, the value chain will be addressed, with business and investment plans in place by year 2 and negotiations with financing institutions to support scaling.

Institutional sustainability: Ashoka Africa’s strategy is based on building the capacity of local Fellow partners and their affiliated community groups so that they will be able to carry out activities after project phase-out. The past 15+ years of experience with fellows in the 9 countries Sahel region have shown that this is a successful model as it builds confidence in local institutions (Fellows). Building off of these existing structures, tapping into their resources, trust and links to their communities, the action will ensure institutional sustainability after the project phases out. The action will also build the capacity of fellows, women and youths in particular mothers and school authorities as well as individual country level health sector and agribusinesses: this is essential in ensuring that best practices continue to be promoted beyond project end.

Policy level sustainability’s will engage with government from the project start to build up a case for new policy and legislation on food fortification. Involving Researchers, Nutritionist, Health Educators and other multi lateral and bi literal institutions will ensure that the action will be sustainable after the project phases out. Our aim will be to achieve regulatory change regarding fortification, which includes correct business models adaptation within the ECOWAS region. These changes will ensure a positive environment for after project phase-out.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners

Attachments (1)


Detailled description of ICON vision, its founders, mandates and goals


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Binta Houma  Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.

Photo of Binta Houma

Hi Itika,

Thanks for your message. We are still working (as TOT collaboration) on the application and will make it public once done.
Best Regards