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The flour mixture tackling Tanzania’s hidden hunger: Jolenta’s story

Working to end vitamin A deficiency in rural Tanzania, social entrepreneur Jolenta tackles ‘hidden hunger’ through her sweet potato product.

Driven by her desire to end vitamin A deficiency in rural Tanzania, social entrepreneur Jolenta is fighting ‘hidden hunger’ through her sweet potato product.


Across rural Tanzania statistics have shown that women and children are widely affected from vitamin A deficiency, while according to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey it is estimated that 34 per cent of Tanzanian children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition and 58 per cent suffer from anaemia. Most affected by malnutrition do not show any physical symptoms usually associated with hunger and malnourishment, hence the condition becoming widely known as ‘hidden hunger’.

Human nutrition expert Jolenta is dedicated to improving health in Tanzania and has set out to lead her community out of malnutrition. After learning of the post-harvest losses affecting local farmers, Jolenta decided to stand as a middle person between farmers and consumers to support their agricultural sales whilst developing a product that can tackle malnutrition in rural areas.

Jolenta purchased the small or broken orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) from farmers which were unsuitable for sale, then cut and dried them to produce OFSP flour. OFSP is a variety of sweet potato which is highly nutritious as it is rich in beta-carotene and high in Vitamin A, so it can help people who are suffering from micro-nutrient deficiency and tackle the prominent problem of malnourishment.

Jolenta said: “There are many places where the most known vitamin A source foods are not highly available. But in these places they can grow sweet potatoes, so we are trying to promote it as a sustainable way of helping these people. For those who cannot grow it they are able to buy this type flour and put it in porridges, so processing it is one way to get it during off-season.”

Jolenta has built a network of farmers who supply her with orange-fleshed sweet potato for her business, allowing her to sustainably support their livelihoods whilst producing a product with the potential to eradicate hidden hunger.

Since beginning to sell OFSP flour, Jolenta has expanded her product range to include other highly nutritious foods such as pro-vitamin A maize flour, maize mixed with cassava, as well as pumpkin seeds powder.

In 2019, following an enterprise incubator with Raleigh International and Novartis, Jolenta built on her business plan and officially registered her business under the name of SanaVita. Since then she and SanaVita have gained the attention of national media in Tanzania and was awarded a prize with Clouds Media for being a strong female bringing solutions to her community, as well winning the Lishe Accelerator for which she will represent Tanzania at the Global SUN pitch in Singapore in 2020.

“For me my passion is nutrition. Malnutrition is something scary and a real problem, not just in the villages but in the towns too. Because people are eating something while not knowing where it is made or what it contains. They may be finding ways to get out of malnutrition, but they are doing that by buying products that are not right for them. For me designing this product is one way to tell other processers to look at what ingredients are good. I wish that one day we will be talking about how we don’t have malnutrition in Tanzania, where everybody is free from hidden hunger.”

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