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We want to give to about 250 school children in a poor, village-based tribal community in the Sunderbans in Eastern India at least one gram of Spirulina ‘Superfood’ micronutrient food supplement per child per day during the school midday lunch.

Spirulina 4 Schools Project in the Sunderbans in Eastern India
Fundraising target: Raise $7,500 by 1st May 2010.

1. What we want to do:
We want to give to about 250 school children in a poor, village-based tribal community in the Sunderbans in Eastern India at least one gram of Spirulina ‘Superfood’ micronutrient food supplement per child per day during the school midday food program. The one gram of Spirulina is expected to provide a small child's daily requirement of Beta Carotene and Vitamins 'A', 'D', 'K' and 'B12', and also provide smaller quantities of Iron, 'B1 Thiamine', 'B2 Riboflavin', amongst other essential minerals.

To be able to do that, we need to teach the women in the local community to grow spirulina. The inexpensive tanks and acquisition of the appropriate technology inputs will cost about $2,500. We will need another $2,000 for consumables and logistics support, and $2,000 to pay the women workers and one supervisor for six months, which is the gestation period for sustainability. Finally, we will need $1,000 for developing the packaging, storage and distribution systems. The total budget of $7,500 for 250 poor school children works out to $30 per child – a small price to pay for the end to malnutrition for that child, in perpetuity.

2. What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a low-fat, low-calorie, cholesterol-free source of easily-digestible vegetable protein containing all the essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body but are needed to synthesize the non-essential amino acids. Spirulina has no cellulose in its cell walls and is therefore easily digested and assimilated.

It is called a ‘super food’ because its nutrient content is more potent than any other food. Many of the essential nutrients needed by our bodies are concentrated in spirulina. It is comprised of at least 60% all-vegetable protein, essential vitamins and phytonutrients such as the rare essential fatty acid GLA, sulfolipids, glycolipids and polysaccharides. In the case of Vitamin A and iron – the two most important micronutrients – Spirulina is cheaper than any other natural product, including carrots and spinach.

3. Why do we want to produce Spirulina:
One gram of Spirulina per day is less costly than the 50 or 100 grams of carrots or spinach that would provide roughly the same amount of micronutrients. This is not an argument against carrots or spinach but, to be realistic, poor children in villages would very rarely get 50 grams of carrots or 100 grams of spinach every day. Another compelling feature of Spirulina is that it improves not only the physical strength of the body but also the cognitive development of the child.

Spirulina is also highly relevant for people affected by HIV/AIDS: improved and more balanced nutrition can ease their life considerably although it cannot, of course, cure their disease. In West and Central Africa, HIV/AIDS patients are buying Spirulina every day as a dietary supplement. A recent study with children in Burkina Faso has shown that HIV/AIDS-infected children put on weight and grow if rehabilitated with Spirulina.

What makes Spirulina even more attractive is the fact that it can be produced locally with little investment. With (a) proper training and capacity building; (b) decentralized production, processing and distribution—Spirulina can be organized as a small business for women. With proper funding mechanisms, these same women can be involved in feeding programs and become sustainable ‘barefoot nutritionists’. Women who produce, process and sell Spirulina can also become agents of awareness creation and nutrition education. For more details, please visit [http://www.sankalpacmfs.org/src/01liv/01liv.html#8]

A feasibility study for scaling-up production in India has shown that it is possible to run a social enterprise with decentralized production units. In the long run, there are no cheaper and better ways to sustainability than creating local businesses which make use of the knowledge and skills of local women. A truly sustainable solution will emerge if rural women can be profitably involved in the eradication of malnutrition and, in the process, make a living out of it.

Spirulina can become a sustainable long-term solution if programs can be designed which enable sustainable enterprises that are capable of combating malnutrition as a social enterprise. The benefits of the use and local production of Spirulina from three complementary angles can therefore be summarized as follows:

a) Spirulina is a natural product that provides a comprehensive solution to malnutrition. It contains most critical micronutrients although, it must be noted, not all and it is by no means a miracle solution. However, with just one gram per day being enough to correct a malnutrition of a child in a few weeks, it is an effective solution.

b) Spirulina is a relatively cost-effective solution, even if the prices of artificial vitamins, minerals and other food fortification additives are very low.

c) Local Spirulina production can become a viable business for a group of entrepreneurial women and can thus create sustainable employment, income and also establish a profitable supply chain for feeding programs…if the same women who are producing also get involved in the distribution operations.

The dissemination of spirulina cultivation will not only help to empower women and children in tribal communities everywhere, but can also impact on the future development of integrated health and energy generating systems based on appropriate waste management technologies. For more details, please visit: [http://www.sankalpacmfs.org/src/01liv/01liv.html#82]
 

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