2023.01.19

Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project.

The Ajinomoto Foundation spearheaded a public private partnership project in Ghana to help tackle childhood malnutrition through KOKO Plus, an affordable complementary feeding nutrition supplement via an inclusive social business model.

About the partnership  
The Ajinomoto Group started the Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project (GNIP) in 2009 as part of initiatives to commemorate its 100th year. The Group has since been steadily implementing the project in cooperation with the government of Ghana, University of Ghana, and other international NGOs and corporates. In April 2017, the project was transferred to The Ajinomoto Foundation to realise more social impact in collaboration with public sectors (such as Ghana Health Service).
Background
Koko is a traditional complementary food in Ghana – porridge made from fermented corn. However, the levels of protein and micronutrients in koko do not meet the WHO’s nutrient requirements and dietary recommendations.
To address this nutrient gap, the Ajinomoto Group, in collaboration with various partners, developed KOKO Plus, a supplement containing amino acids, which is added to koko during cooking and provides sufficient nutrients for children, including Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Iodine, Folic Acid, Vit A, B1, B2, B6, Niacin, K1, D3, B12. The World Food Programme (WFP) verified the efficacy of KOKO Plus and registered it as a “Nutritious powder” in its food basket in February 2018.  The product was designed to meet the needs of local communities: it is affordable (USD 0.10/sachet/day); it is desirable (in line with local tradition and preferences); and it is accessible (available in kiosks and one-year shelf life improves access in rural areas).
The social business model for GNIP is based on national policies and works with private businesses in Ghana. Ajinomoto has provided people, goods, and financial and technical support to help establish a social business model which works with and through local companies, local distribution networks and local products.
Partners
Successful social business models require the input and commitment from a wide range of stakeholders, including for example local government, academia and private companies, as well as international NGOs and aid agencies. For GNIP, The Ajinomoto Foundation partnered with the following:
Plan
CARE International
ESM (social marketing company headquartered in South Africa)
EXP (marketing company headquartered in South Africa)
Ghana Health Service (GHS)
International Nutrition Foundation (INF)
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
USAID
University of Cape Coast
University of Ghana
University of Tokyo 
World Food Programme(WFP)
Yedent Agro Group  
Objectives 
To create a sustainable business model and market for a product that can help improve nutritional status of infants as parents begin complementary feeding practices in Ghana.
Overview of activities
The social business model developed for GNIP KOKO Plus programme has four components, which were addressed across four phases (see below). .
Public private engagement was particularly important for Phase 3 of GNIP. To ensure regular consumption of nutritious complementary foods, it was important to change the behaviour of mothers and caregivers. According to consumer research conducted by the Ajinomoto Foundation, GHS community health nurses were ranked as most influential with mothers because they were both familiar and highly trusted. Establishing a PPP between GHS and Ajinomoto was therefore critical to the success of this programme. See more on the KOKO Plus Behaviour Change Model and the rol
Outcomes
In a peer reviewed study conducted by researchers from University of Ghana, Tufts University, Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation and Ajinomoto, the authors concluded that: “KOKO Plus food supplement improved the nutritional profile of koko to satisfy the nutrient intake requirements of young infants as recommended by World Health Organization. KOKO Plus was microbiologically safe, with estimated shelf-life of more than 12 months.”
GNIP estimates that’s KOKO Plus has reached 9,000 children in 2017 and 20,000 children in 2018, with a target to reach 70,000 children in 2019. According to Ghana’s 2014 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the stunting rate for children under five is 18.8%. Calculating for population growth would mean in 2018, approximately 600,000 weaning-age children in Ghana are not getting the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
The Ajinomoto Foundation is planning to expand the project’s activity areas from 2019, so that by 2023, 300,000 weaning-age children will benefit from improved nutrition. Reaching this target would have a positive impact on society.