Nutritious products: Fighting food insecurity with indigenous plants
In Niger, a social enterprise is using local plants that are resistant to the arid climate of the Sahel to produce nutritious food. The result is better incomes for farmers and a preserved environment.
The nutritional value of the leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds of some 15 wild plants are being promoted to help strengthen food security and to combat malnutrition and desertification in Niger. Sahara Sahel Foods uses plants indigenous to the region to produce highly nutritious food, while providing additional income to rural populations.
The company was officially launched in 2014 with initial funding of €1,200 in personal savings from its founder, Josef Garvi. Its industrial unit is located in the Zinder region, in the south-east of the country, and the products are sold in shops across the country. The company currently produces a range of 35 products – including fruit juices and pulp, oils, almonds, confectionery and teas, all derived from natural plant species grown in the Sahel.
The plants, which include Balanites aegyptiaca, Mearua crassifolia and Boscia senegalensis, grow naturally in cereal and legume fields and produce fruit, leaves and gum. Traditionally, they were picked and eaten immediately, or used in medicine. The plants also prevent soil erosion by water runoff, and their perennial nature makes them all the more valuable for combating desertification.