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Le Lionceau: highly-nutritional, locally-sourced and food value chain enhancer babyfood in Senegal

We support Africa's development by offering local and highly nutritional babyfood which allows optimal growth of the adults of tomorrow.

Photo of Siny Samba
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Le Lionceau

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (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.

Founding team: • CEO and co-founder : Siny SAMBA (myself), agri-food engineer, past professional experience in the baby-food industry in France • CFO and co-founder : Rémi FILASTO', agri-food engineer, past professional experience in the R&D financing in France Other minor stakeholder: • thecamp (Crédit Agricole PACA, France) We work with 3 full time employees at the moment. We collaborate with: State Organisations (ADEPME, Cellule de Lutte contre la Malnutrition), Agri-food Technical Institutes (ISJA), NGOs (ENDA Pronat), Small farmers cooperatives and unions (FAPD, FENAB), local agri companies (APROVAG, CASAMANGO, etc.), logistic and supply chain actors (YOBANTE SENEGAL)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.le-lionceau.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?

Dakar

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Senegal

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

Our chosen place is Senegal. Our vision goes beyond Senegalese bundaries (West Africa), but we chose to focus on Senegal for our beginning.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Senegal

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I (Siny SAMBA) am Senegalese. It's where I grew up. I saw my country change over the years, both positively (infrastructures, emerging mid-class, etc.) and negatively (nutrition, health diseases, pollution, etc.). Since I was 5 y.o., when my Grandma and I cooked large batches of Thiebou Diene (rice with fish) for street children of our neighborhood every Friday, I feel deeply touched by the condition of street children, and more generally by the nutritional status of young children in Senegal. We have a lot of work to do, both in terms of information spreading for parents, and in terms of direct nutritional intervention in the most disadvantaged areas.

One day, in Senegal, a parent proudly told me "My child never drinks water, he only takes sweet beverages”, thinking she was acting good for her child. I was shocked by these words and I realized that many parents were misinformed about infant nutrition and had trouble finding suitable products for their babies. Passionate about food industry, I oriented my studies in this direction and I decided to go abroad to continue my studies and graduated as a food processing engineer. I began working at France’s leading infant nutrition company, which gave me the opportunity to develop my expertise in this field. My willingness and drive to contribute to my own continent's development inspired me to make the move to go back in my country and setting up my own company, Le Lionceau, to fight against food insecurity while valuing local resources with high nutritional quality and supporting parents in the nutritional education of their children.

Acting on Senegalese young children nutritional status during their 1000 days of life allow us to positively impact its entire physical, mental and cognitive development, giving to the adult of tomorrow the best chance of succeeding and as a result, of producing positive effects on his/her society. For us, good nutrition is the cornerstone of a society development and prosperity.

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.

Senegal is a country of diversity. Beyond its rich ethnic history – Senegal has more than 40 ethnic groups and 6 national languages – Senegal is known for its great religious tolerance, with a pronounced Islamic-Christian dialogue. The animism is very present and tempers, nuances the monotheistic religions, which are however very anchored in the daily life of the Senegalese population. Arab and French influences are palpable, but perfectly integrated within the whole picture.

This spirit of tolerance and openness is found in the welcome reserved for travelers, through the "teranga", that is to say, knowing how to welcome people by being open to diversity, while still proudly transmitting its own culture. This is also found in food traditions. The meal – which preparation requires several hours a day, without exception, to the housewife – is always abundant, in case of an unexpected visit (guest, deliveryman, gardener...), in which case, he/she is invited to join the meal. Meals are eaten around a common tray and are an opportunity to exchange points of view. The local specialties are quite spicy, never too much, very tasty, predominantly starchy food (rice, millet), with a little fish or meat. Vegetables are present to give flavor to the dish but are rarely eaten. The nutritional balance is quite poor. Many people suffer from cardiovascular diseases and diabete, from the early age of 40 years old.

Senegal is a fairly small country; the climate is mainly sub-saharan (except the south of the country which is tropical humid). The landscapes are flat, dry. Natural resources are quite scarce. Besides, most of the Senegalese economy is based on construction, fishing, tourism and services. In this context, having a structured, community-based and resilient approach to nutrition is essential to meet the nutritional needs of the population, especially in rural areas: we must excel despite the quantitative constraints and bundaries involved.

The color palettes are unique: the pastel colors of the buildings, the omnipresent sand, the milky white sky and the dusty trees during the dry period contrast with the bright tones of traditional clothing, the yellow of the taxis, the painting on bus and canoes…

Entrepreneurship is in the mouths of all young people. There is a real dynamic ; a sort of awareness “that we can make it out and succeed by counting on ourselves”. Whether in agriculture and poultry farming, which are experiencing a renewed general interest, or in ITCs (Dakar is an important hub in West Africa, with good infrastructures), the energy that drives the new generation is palpable. Despite the limited funding and despite the lack, sometimes, of knowledge and training. The new generation is focused on action.

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

196722

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

16500000

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

Env.

The situation in Senegal is alarming. Climate change has already reduced rainfall by 30% since 1950. As a result, the surface water table is getting deeper, leading to droughts affecting vegetation and non-irrigated crops; 1/3 of soils are highly salinized due to bad agricultural practices. The natural forests left are disappearing, due to overexploitation & illegal logging. Dakar is the third most polluted city on Earth. Fish stocks have decreased by 80% in 20 years. Plastic waste is everywhere. If nothing is done, by 2050 it will only get worse.

D.

The WHO 2016 report on malnutrition in Senegal shows that 19% of children under 5 suffer from stunting, 6% are acutely malnourished, 13% are underweight. More than 50% of pregnant women are anemic.

The diet is unbalanced with an excess of starchy foods and lipids, low protein intake and almost no consumption of raw vegetables. There is a lack of information about nutrition, especially for the illiterate part of the population (54%). Globalization & economic growth is bringing new problematics (cardio-vascular diseases and diabete due to ultra-processed imported food). By 2050, the nutritional status of the population could evolve in completely opposite ways, depending mainly on education and impact of climate change.

Eco.

Agriculture employs more than 70% of the population, but generates 18% of GDP, which suggests a poor distribution of revenue on the food value chain. Small producers suffer from poverty and precarity, at the mercy of climate instability. Informal sector is omnipresent which worsens their state of precariousness. The country is dependent on imports for many basic foodstuffs, such as wheat flour, rice, milk powder, edible oil, etc. However, Senegal has a GDP growth of between 3.5 and 6% per year, which opens good economic perspectives by 2050.

C.

Women are at the pillar of meal management at home and infant nutrition. They are also very active in the agricultural sector but often have problems to access to land, compared to men. After a 5 decades post-colonial period during which imported products were the most sought-after, Senegalese families are progressively returning to local products, and we think this trend will be exarcerbated by 2050. 

T.

The whole food value chain has a very small technology penetration rate. It results in poor traceability, a lot of agricultural losses, high market opacity, and difficult access to information, whether for producers, processors or customers. Senegal has an interesting entrepreneurial dynamic in ICT, which bodes well for 2050.

P.

The food sector is framed by governmental and/or international laws (Codex Alimentarius). Some laws do not take into account the development of the local industry and generate aberrant situations, as in the case of local milk which is taxed at 26% against 8% for imported milk. Lot of work has to be done to simplify policy, laws and rules, and turn them in favor of local production instead of trading and importations.

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

NB: We are already implementing our vision since mid '18, our initial production date.

Env
Our approach is to have a positive impact on the environment in each department of our activity. For baby purees, we chose glass instead of plastic packaging, and implemented a deposit system that allows up to 20 reuses, with a financial incentive for the customer. We are studying paper-based and/or bulk solutions for our infant flours in R&D. We source our raw materials exclusively locally, compost our organic waste and redistribute it to our farming partners to improve their soils.

D
We focus on the 1000 first days of life of children. Each product we develop must conform to the triad: locally sourced–local tasting–highly nutritional.
Local raw materials (moringa, millet, baobab fruit, etc.) are directly processed in our semi-industrial plant. Our products are 100% natural and bring to children the needed nutritional elements to promote their physical growth & brain development. We give mothers access to information about nutrition, by organizing workshops with urban and rural communities and giving them access to our native language videos.

Eco
We are community-focused: we contact women food processors groups to have a view on existing artisanal babyfood solutions, we improve them into new products and integrate those women –when possible– as suppliers through long term partnerships. We also work in a more conventional way with small farmers: our suppliers are contractualized at least 6 months in advance, paid 20% more than local traders and trained to organic practices. This is vital to fight farmers precariousness, increase their income and allow them to planify their production campaigns.

C
The awareness campaigns made on our beneficiaries, moms, aim to improve their understanding of child nutrition and to transmit them good practices, while respecting local customs and traditions. The goal is not to impose a model but to build our model on what exists locally, improving it in terms of nutrition and practices.

T
We leverage technology to have the greatest possible impact on the community, optimizing our available resources, Through social networks, we created a community of moms who interact and participate in our products development. We plan to implement by 2021 a new transcontinental model, leveraging the African diaspora and its $1,6 billion sent to Senegal annually: Cash-to-Good. It will allow us to offer, through an internet platform on our website, a subscription service to the diaspora coupled with a delivery of products in Senegal to people of their choice, allowing diaspora to have a direct impact on local communities through our products.

P
As an agri-food company, we are joining enterprise and inter-professional groups to make our voice and that of agro-professionals (including small farmers) heard, to encourage the State to set up fairer tax regimes, incentives for organic farming, and a better defined regulatory framework for babyfood.

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.

February 10, 2050. It’s 7:30am in London. Awa is a senior manager in a local bank. She fixes the last details before leaving for work. She validates her subscription to the “Diaspora” formula on the Le Lionceau app. With this, she can feed his family’s babies who are in Senegal, avoiding costly money transfer fees or uncertainties about the use of the envelope. The nutritional quality of the products, the delivery, everything is managed on site by Le Lionceau.

It’s 6:30am in Kaolack (Senegal). Here and elsewhere, the nutritional situation of children has improved greatly in the past 30 years. Companies like Le Lionceau have collaborated with NGOs and government to develop 100% local, highly nutritional and affordable products. The nutritional education of families implemented by this partnership has allowed them to integrate new but respectful practices, essential for the first 1,000 days of life of the child, without increasing food costs.

 At the same time, it’s 6:30 in Bayakh, in the countryside near Dakar. Before, Modou was an informal trader of agricultural products. He bought, “last minute”, raw materials from local farmers a bargain price. Today, Cheikh is a farmer and cultivates his own plot. Thanks to the lobbying done by cooperatives and high social impact companies, a new land law was passed, allocating 80% of the agricultural area to small producers, to promote a resilient agriculture to climate change, provider of jobs, respectful of soils, biodiversity, and humans. Modou has been trained to agroecology, thanks to an Enda - Le Lionceau - State partnership. He now has more negociation power in front of his customers, thanks to the creation of small local cooperatives, equipped and maintained by a small annual subscription paid by the members. In addition, Modou better captures added value on the food chain, thanks to reduction of intermediaries, allowed by the adoption of an online platform that connects customers and suppliers in complete transparency.

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

Our main purpose is to provide, for children of all backgrounds and all social categories, equal chances in terms of physical, mental and cognitive development. We are convinced that a country development begins with an adequate nutrition for its children that will become the adults of tomorrow: a healthy population is much better equipped to face the challenges that await them, and there are many for Africa of today and tomorrow!

As a food system is composed of interconnected elements that go way beyond agricultural production and consumption, our purpose extends to the whole Senegalese food value chain. Our vision is a human-intensive and ecosystem-centered agriculture, with small plots which are designed to promote ecosystem interactions and thus be more resilient to climate change. Being less dependent on fossil fuels and hard mechanization, it is human-intensive and thus massively creates jobs all over the country (and not only in cities), providing a concrete solution to unemployment, which is about 40% of the active population in Senegal (unofficial data). Beyond its impact on employment, this agriculture is more remunerative for farmers: thanks to the adoption of online platforms, which connect customers and suppliers, access to market information is much more transparent, and cuts intermediaries and bad business practices. Farmers thus capture more margin; the intermediaries can make a reconversion into this job-intensive agriculture. At last, farmers cooperatives will play a center role on the food system, empowering farmers communities.

We are a for-profit business. But as an impact company, we have non-negotiable values.
1. No approximation on infant nutrition. Every children, even the most disadvantaged, has a right to high quality nutrition. And it has to be 100% locally-sourced: the food that the adults of tomorrow experienced during their childhood should be available to them locally and easily throughout their whole life. Even if we have to reduce margins on our products.
2. Small producers are not an option, they form the basis of the system. For our supply, we approach large companies only as a last resort, once all options have been studied.
3. We put the environment at the heart of our system thinking, not through greenwashed CSR and marketing policies.

Goal 1: A 75% decrease in child malnutrition in Senegal by 2050
To achieve these objectives, infant feeding must be:
Combined with breastfeeding. Nothing is more suitable for the baby and nutritious than breast milk.
Local: A 100% local diet is by far the most resilient formula. It does not depend on international prices for raw materials. In addition, it shapes the cognitive development and food habits of the future adult which will be more attracted by local products instead of imported ones. Finally, 100% local infant food redistributes the value locally unlike imported products, benefitting all the actors of the food system.
Balanced: This is where awareness campaigns and an adequate product offering make sense.
Affordable: It goes hand in hand with the “local” point. It is possible to obtain highly nutritional and inexpensive products by using vegetal ingredients with a high protein, vitaminic and mineral content (niébé, moringa, baobab fruit, etc.).
Community-based: By putting mothers and women groups at the center of awareness and information actions. By capitalizing on their solidarity and stability.
Traceable: ICT and blockchain will be of great help to us. We will collaborate with the thriving ICT entrepreneurial ecosystem in Senegal.

 Our plan, to implement our vision, is the following:
On the short term, to provide quick solutions to the nutritional emergency of the country, we will rely on the one hand, on the sale of our babyfood products (current range: 15 products in total, many others in development), and on the other hand, on partnerships with NGOs and UN organizations by providing them with acute and moderate malnutrition intervention products meeting their expectations.

On the long term, we will focus on training and nutrition awareness among mothers, relying on dispensaries and hospitals, so that good practices can spread throughout the country, creating an even more resilient and decentralized vision of Senegalese infant nutrition.

Goal 2: Small farmers control 90% of Senegalese agricultural production and are owners of 75% of fertile lands by 2050; 80% of Senegalese agricultural production is organic, and 100 producer cooperatives are created throughout the country.

Historically, Senegalese agriculture has always been close to what we consider today as resilient. Indeed, until less than a century ago, Senegal relied almost 100% on its local productions for its food supply. The plots were fragmented and very diversified. The food was supplied by local products, mainly millet and sorghum. The production was natively organic: no agrochemical was used; farmers had a deeper connection with their soil and managed their crops by leveraging the local ecosystems and cultivated biodiversity. However, colonization before, and globalization after, completely disrupted this well-established food system. People today eat mainly rice and bread as food base. However, 80% of rice and 100% of wheat are imported. In addition, by using the argument of technical progress, governments have favored the adoption of heavy mechanization, very dependent on fossil fuels and agrochemicals and which requires much larger plots. Access to land has therefore been completely overhauled, and huge plots have been entrusted to large companies, expropriating small producers. Also, urban development hasn’t been planified, at the expenses of agricultural surfaces. This trend continues today.

In our food system vision, our second goal is to restore a fairer, job-creating and healthy agriculture. We base our approach on 4 pillars:
1. Partnerships selection: our supply is exclusively provided by small farmers, contractualized 6 months in advance, paid 20% more than informal traders market price. We hope to establish a strong dynamic in the entire agrifood sector, leading other organizations to do the same.
2. Training: ancestral farming techniques have many qualities, but are not enough to ensure the resilience of the Senegalese food system in a changing world and climate. These techniques must be complemented by modern knowledge in agroecology, bioprotection, soil science, plot design, etc. Training farmers is a central element of our food system vision. It involves support to the private sector from NGOs and the government to maximize our final impact. To establish a "snowball" effect, producers favoring these practices will be prioritized in our supply.
3. Cooperatives: through the implementation of public/NGO/private partnerships, we want to encourage farmers to cluster in self-governing and self-funded cooperatives. Cooperatives operations must be light, and the infrastructures adapted to the local context and not investment-intensive. For example, we can imagine the construction of storage chambers in Nubian Vaults, an inexpensive and eco-friendly construction method, which uses local materials and allows cooler temperatures throughout the year without energy imput.
These cooperatives will give small producers a much greater negotiating force in front of customers and financial interlocutors, and will allow them to respond much more effectively in terms of quantities, diversity of supply and quality.
4. Lobbying: joining forces to represent our vision of the agricultural sector is essential. The objective here is to bring together the actors who share this vision to better guide the evolution of legislation. Our goal is the voting of laws framing strictly agricultural land, the allocation of land to big national and foreign companies, and protecting it as much as possible from wild urbanization. It is a long-term job that will require the motivation and cohesion capacities, but is essential for our vision of the food system in 2050 to be deployed.

 

Goal 3: Our Cash-to-Good (C2G) model, which involves Senegalese diaspora (more than 500,000 people in 2018, 1,5 million forecasted for 2050) of all over the world, has been adopted by people and companies, capting 20% of diaspora’s cash flow towards Senegal.

In 2019, Senegalese diaspora’s cash flow towards Senegal was about $1,6 billion, which is more than 10% of annual GDP. However, this type of value transfer has important disadvantages for two main reasons:

Economic: Charges of 7 to 20% applied by companies significantly reduce the amount received by the recipient, money which will not be reinvested in the local economy;

Transparency: The money received is sometimes managed by intermediaries which are not always close to the family, who could use it differently from what was intended by the sender.

By introducing C2G model which leverages technology, we allow diaspora people to choose directly and precisely the products they want on our website, pay online and have the products delivered at the people and place of their choice in Senegal. No additional cost is applied. No transcontinental shipping is needed.

This system gives families transparency about the use of their funds, and allows them to save up to 20 million dollars annually on money transfers (considering 2019 numbers which is very conservative), reinvesting it in children’s nutrition. Also, by buying our products, they directly impact Senegalese whole food system.

We hope this C2G model will be adopted and replicated by other stakeholders (companies, no-profit organizations, etc.) in Senegal, because of its simplicity of execution and great impact on the country.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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