Our ‘Meet the Coordinator’ series provides a glimpse into what inspires, motivates and challenges our SUN Business Network (SBN) country coordinators. Our coordinators are at the heart of the SBN, as they engage business, government, and other stakeholders within their SUN Country to provide support to SMEs to act, invest and innovate in improved nutrition.
Ibiso Ivy King-Harry is the coordinator of SBN Nigeria.
What inspired you to work with the SUN Business Network?
Put simply, it is the private sector focus. Building a network of committed businesses with one goal which is to improve nutrition for public health impact in Nigeria, irrespective of their industry/sector of operation as well as the size of the business, is very inspiring. My background is in public health and my first work experience in the nutrition field was with the World Health Organisation in Rwanda: it was new, it was different, it was exciting and I knew I wanted to keep at it. Being able to work with the SUN Business Network and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), to engage the private sector and work alongside other partners to fight malnutrition in all its forms is not just inspiring, but a momentous experience.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Getting businesses to understand their role in improving nutrition, and getting other stakeholders to understand the role of businesses in improving nutrition and bringing them to the table during discussions and creation of strategies/policies. Prior to the SBN Nigeria launch in April 2016, a survey was conducted to gain insights into the industries that were most committed to nutrition. It was found that only select pharmaceutical companies and micronutrient providers were most committed, whilst food companies viewed themselves as providers of food and drink, and not nutrition. Businesses also saw little competitive advantage in improving nutrition due to low consumer awareness. Presently, we have over 150 business members, all with signed commitments to improve nutrition in Nigeria.
What is your greatest achievement in this role?
2020 has been a very challenging year, but I’m really proud that we have been able to successfully link businesses within the network to emergency grants in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis under the Keeping Food Markets Working (KFMW) programme at GAIN. We were also able to sign MoUs with the Lagos and Kano State Chambers of Commerce and have been working collaboratively to strengthen public-private engagements to address malnutrition. Finally, we provided basic nutrition and food safety training to businesses. This was key for us as we identified that many businesses did not understand nutrition and we received a lot of positive feedback from the trainings.
Which partners/stakeholders are you looking to engage with to achieve SBN Nigeria’s objectives over the coming year?
Over the coming year, we aim to engage with
i) Larger businesses, as well as the Chambers of Commerce in other states of Nigeria
ii) The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment
iii) Diverse types of financiers
iv) The other SUN networks in Nigeria
Nominate a local business within your network that has showcased great commitment to addressing malnutrition
This is a really difficult question as so many of the businesses in our network have shown commitments to addressing malnutrition. It’s impossible to choose just one business, so I’d rather recognise 3 businesses who put in an extra effort during the COVID-19 pandemic to support state governments, state ministries, and individuals despite the challenges:
Cato Foods and AgroAllied Global Concepts are committed to using staple foods to address malnutrition and hunger. They are a clear play in the biofortification value chain and their products are made with about 80% biofortified crops, specifically vitamin A cassava and vitamin A orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. During the pandemic, as part of their CSR efforts, the business gave out food relief packages comprising of all their nutritious products and other commodities to 4 communities (Oshogbo, Iwo, Ayedire and Olupona) in Osun state, where they were able to reach about 2,500 vulnerable beneficiaries in total. They also carried out a COVID-19 sensitisation and awareness campaign with the Ayedire Local Government Area.
Baby Grubz are passionate about women’s empowerment. They produce and package a wide range of affordable dried homemade cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables and condiments that serve as a base to make a variety of yummy, nutritious and fast meals for infants. In the midst of the pandemic, Baby Grubz gave away some of their products for a week to those who could not afford them (limited to 2 packs per person). This giveaway encouraged other individuals to provide funds to the company so that they could reach more people with their products. Baby Grubz was also crowned the overall winner of the 2020 SUN Pitch Competition.
Spectra Industries Limited provide quality and affordable nutritious food products. During the COVID-19 pandemic they donated one of their products – High Fibre Sorghum Meal – to Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti states. They also assisted the Lagos state government to package some of their food products into smaller pack sizes for vulnerable populations.