Combating Malnutrition in Nigeria
Baby Grubz is a Nigerian baby food company that produces food inspired by traditional Nigerian flavors while using local ingredients. Nigerian computer scientist Seun Sangoleye founded Baby Grubz while seeking more nutritious food for her son. Although it may produce a small footprint in combating malnutrition in Nigeria, Baby Grubz is an example of the impact small businesses can have on poverty in their communities.

Malnutrition in Nigeria

According to UNICEF, approximately “2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).” SAM is especially prevalent in the northeastern regions of Nigeria, which have faced food insecurity due to the regional “rampage” of Boko Haram, according to Al Jazeera. The conflict, which has persisted since 2009, remains to have an effect on food stockpiles in the area, which has led to malnutrition among children in the area — and the problem is only getting worse. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) found that 42.1% of households in three northeastern Nigerian states have “insufficient food intake,” compared to 37.8% in 2021.

A Small Business Solution

Sangoleye founded Baby Grubz upon learning that there were limited options for locally produced, nutritious baby food. She sought to create a “new and nutritious, pocket and family-friendly” alternative to imported baby food products.

“I started Baby Grubz out of a desire for good health for my son but my discoveries about the alarming malnutrition crisis pushed me to continue,” as reported on the Baby Grubz website. She also said that her experience of living in a rural neighborhood opened her eyes to the common struggle and that she decided that her business would “alleviate poverty and provide maximum nutrition at the best prices for the masses.” Her product achieves this by using locally sourced ingredients that are high in malnutrition-tackling vitamins. By using local ingredients, her product also has a small yet positive impact on the local economy.

Infrastructure and COVID-19’s Effects

Baby Grubz’s journey to achieving Sangoleye’s goals of combating malnutrition in Nigeria has faced significant hurdles, however. Infrastructure instability in Nigeria is proving a tricky factor in succeeding as a business. Sangoleye explained to How We Made It in Africa that it is difficult to transport her product throughout the country and that her business uses diesel-powered generators in order to avoid power shortages — a quite costly solution.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Nigerian businesses hard, with “at least two-thirds” of Nigerian businesses closing down as a result, according to the UNDP. Baby Grubz experienced these effects too, with Sangoleye having to lay off some of her employees. The company’s workforce comprises 95% women, a population that has seen a dropping labor participation rate in the last decade. In Nigeria, 48% of women were part of the national workforce in 2021, compared to a peak of 57% that was reached between 1993-2011.

A Bright Future

Despite these hurdles, Sangoleye continues to pursue her fight against child malnutrition in Nigeria, as well as female empowerment. As economies around the world continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sangoleye has started hiring again and has no plans to stop, according to How We Made It in Africa. While international organizations like the U.N. and numerous NGOs work on combating malnutrition in Nigeria, Baby Grubz presents a small yet effective solution to combating malnutrition on a local level, while boosting the economy by using locally grown ingredients and hiring workers from the surrounding community.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Flickr