Malnutrition has been labeled Nigeria’s silent crisis by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health. The most vulnerable group affected are children as up to one million children under the age of five are affected by severe acute malnutrition in Nigerian each year. Policy predictions about future access to nutrition continue to place food security in Nigeria as a pressing issue for government, NGOs and local organizations.
Oscar Ekponimo, a Nigerian entrepreneur, had personal experience with hunger as a child that led him to develop a cloud-based software app called Chowberry. When he was a child, his mom used to remind him that hunger was not forever, and he cites this reminder as one of the reasons that kept him going every day. The idea for the app came as he walked the aisles of a grocery store and came across a can of tuna about to expire. With the goal of reducing food waste by redirecting it to those in need, Chowberry combines technology with the missions of local NGOs to address the momentous issue of food security in Nigeria.
In fact, this app allows retailers to monitor and track food product expiration in order to allow customers to access deep discounts through the app’s algorithm. The discounts become larger the longer the food waits on the shelves. The beta version – a 3-month trial of the app – connected 300 users with 20 retailers that provided nutrition to approximately 150 orphans and vulnerable children through partnership with orphanages. This pilot program was a success as it allowed participating orphanages to cut down on spending by more than 70 percent.
The app also reaches non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are able to purchase food at reasonable prices and acquire more food for distribution. The app logs a list of the NGOs’ preferences and notifies them when it receives the type of food the charities need for their food distribution programs. As of right now, Ekponimo’s biggest challenge is fighting ‘red tape’ that makes larger companies slow to adopt the necessary technology.
There has been a growing demand for Chowberry’s services over the past few years, and the organization now has a team of nine in Abuja that works with 20 retailers. Chowberry partners with three local charities to enhance food security in Nigeria: the Afro Global Care Foundation, Hold My Hands Women and Youth Development Foundation and Thrifty Slayer.
Ekponimo doesn’t stop his social activism with Chowberry; he also delivers free training and mentorship to school-age children on how to tackle hunger, malnutrition and achieving sustainable development. His social entrepreneurship and commitment to addressing food security in Nigeria won Ekponimo the 2016 Rolex Award of Enterprise and the title of being named one of Time magazine’s Next Generation Leader for 2017.
Creating Sustainable Innovations and Improvement
Although Nigeria is Africa’s wealthiest and most populated country, more than half the people residing in its borders live below the poverty line. Furthermore, Northern Nigeria has the third highest rate of chronic undernutrition of children in the world, and the International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that approximately 300,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria over the coming year.
Food security remains at the forefront of challenges within th enation, and there is thus no doubt that the need exists for innovations like Chowberry.
– Georgie Giannopoulos