Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023


Article for SUN on IWD

Women and youth are vital to the functioning of food systems, participating in various activities, including food production, processing, marketing, and distribution within food value chains. Women and youth contribute labour to food systems and are involved in unpaid and informal activities on family farms. In developing countries an estimated 43% of women and 57% of youth form part of the workforce in agriculture.  Despite their critical roles, women and youth face a myriad of challenges that hinder their involvement and the development of their capacities.

These challenges include but are not limited to a lack of access to markets and market information, lack of access to commercial land, limited entrepreneurial knowledge, lack of representation in policy discourse, limited access to technology, and a lack of relevant role models and mentors. Furthermore, a survey conducted by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Network highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic further compounded these challenges and immensely affected businesses led by women and youth who had limited capacity and resources to absorb the pandemic shocks.

Case study- Grandios Pap, creating nutritious alternatives for weaning babies

In most Nigerian homes, the process of weaning a baby onto solid food begins with one of the oldest known foods in Nigerian history – Pap. Simple, light, and satisfying with colourful choices, this fermented dry maize product has built a reputation for itself with different local names being acquired from different tribes: Ogi, Akamu, Koko, and so on. While the local process of making pap (from maize, millet, grains etc) can be tedious, challenging, and sometimes unhygienic, some businesses have taken advantage of available technological improvements to simplify this process. So, when you think of hygienic pap in Nigeria and other West African countries, Grandios Pap comes to mind.

Yemisi Obe, is the Managing Director of Prothrive Astute Heights Ltd – a food processing company that produces Grandios Pap, a variety of nutritious pap which is made from fermented maize or sorghum flour.She explains the uniqueness of the product: “Our flagship product is the yellow pap which is made from bio-fortified vitamin A maize. We started using bio-fortified vitamin A maize in 2019 after our experience with SUN Business Network and GAIN through the NutriPitch – Nourish Nigeria Challenge Programme held in Nigeria”.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, production of Grandios Pap was significantly impacted due to the increased prices of maize and other raw materials. The cash flow to buy raw materials also dwindled and business was adversely affected.

To revive the business from the crippling effects of the pandemic, as an SBN member, Yemisi was encouraged to apply for a grant dedicated to support businesses in Nigeria through a Keeping Food Markets Working Intervention implemented by GAIN. The grant further boosted the circulation and production of this flagship nutritious product.

Grandios yellow pap, which can be taken as a cereal or porridge, is made from carefully selected and high quality biofortified Vitamin A maize and is being produced in two pack sizes – 500g and 50g to ensure that this nutritious weaning alternative is available to low-income consumers.

Oluyemisi Obe

Yemisi is a beneficiary of a variety of SBN’s business support initiatives for SMEs in Nigeria and around the world. As one of the top three finalists of the SBN Nourish Nigeria Challenge in 2019, she proceeded to the regional competition, and has benefitted from technical assistance to strengthen her company’s capacity to scale up production of her products.

Yemisi Obe’s goal in the next five years is for Prothrive Astute Heights Ltd to continue serving Nigerians with more healthy, nutritious food products. Riding on this goal, the vision of the company “is to be the number-one Nigerian food processing company that is preferred by customers and other stakeholders across the world”.

To support women and youth in overcoming the challenges they face and empowering them to explore opportunities for delivering healthier, safer, and more affordable diets to their communities, the SBN is excited to launch its Women and Youth Empowerment Strategy. This strategy is closely aligned with the SBN Global strategy and aims to guide SBN national networks in adapting their support services to meet the specific needs of women and youth.  By doing so, we hope to drive the development of more sustainable and equitable food systems.