Hidden Hunger

Smart Computing Framework to mitigate Nutritional Deficiencies

Vision

End Stunted Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mothers were able to access nutritional education and personalised advice through interactions with the app and our teams

AUD investment from University partners (AAUN) achieved to develop solution based features of app from validated field results

N

Pre-approval for testing a tailored community-based marketplace

THe Problem

Stunted Growth – More than 26% of preschool children in Kenya, 33 % in South Africa, 37 % in Nigeria and 40% in Malawi are stunted, in other words, short for their age. This condition represents a chronic form of undernourishment in early life and leads to irrecoverable physical and mental development.

Mothers in Malawi culture are entrusted as the provider and manager of a household’s food. Malawi is one of the least developed and most impoverished countries on earth. Mothers here experience a high level of pressure and anxiety in trying to meet household demands of securing a sufficient amount of food, understandably resulting in a lack of prioritisation of a healthy nutritional diet. In the Nancholi district, mothers speak about their desperation in knowing that their diets don’t provide them with enough nutrients despite their best efforts.

Further, mothers discuss the sacrifices they faced due to these circumstances. For example, one mother spoke of the conflict she faced in deciding if it would be best for her to eat their limited supply of nutritious food or if it would be best to ensure her children have a nutritious diet and exclude herself, risking her ability to care.

Over-exertion in trying to acquire enough money or farm enough crops is a pain point that mothers struggle with. There is a sense of guilt or personal dissatisfaction if, despite working additional jobs or spending long hours farming, their desired amount of nutritional food was still lacking.

Mothers feel a lack of broad or direct support from institutions and other stakeholders that operate in the nutritional space. While motivated to make changes to improve nutrition for the sake of their families and themselves, they described that there are simply no avenues they could take.

STUNTED GROWTH

More than 26% of preschool children in Kenya, 33 % in South Africa, 37 % in Nigeria and 40% in Malawi are stunted, in other words, short for their age. This condition represents a chronic form of undernourishment in early life and leads to irrecoverable physical and mental development.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

Heavy reliance on few limited crops causes economic hardship through fluctuating market prices and having to pay high prices for alternate foods if they are available at all. Malawi is ranked as the 6th poorest nation on earth in 2018.

FOOD SECURITY

Subsistence farmers focus heavily on crops that are well-known regionally and reliable, in order to have enough income to provide for their family and continue farming into the next season. This cycle of dependence on limited, often nutritionally deficient crops (e.g. Maize) decreases the system’s ability to handle environmental disasters caused by disease and weather conditions.

KEY PARTNERS

HOW IT WORKS

This project originated from a team spanning 4 countries and comprising 16 researchers as part of the Australian Africa Universities Network (AAUN). One of the studies that inspired the project was a study of what households in four of South Africa’s poorest rural communities eat in summer and winter. It found that when households grew their own crops to eat, their dietary diversity improved.

A digital solution has been utilised successfully to address similar issues in India centred around a smart computing framework. Combining insights from this on the ground experience and research, the team designed a mobile based information system for Africa to inform about crops that can be grown locally to address nutritional deficiencies in their diet and information about how to grow these crops.

The researchers are creating a database of crops that can be grown in different parts of Africa and the types of nutrition these crops can provide . Using Food and Agriculture organisation guidelines they have devised a way to identify missing nutrients in people’s diet. This enables the product to recommend locally grown cereal, fruits, and vegetables that they can eat, information about how to grow these crops and related nutritional aspects.

Users can sign in to the mobile app and identify where they live using the map. Next they can provide some information about their household and take the Food Survey. In the food survey the user is shown images of commonly consumed food organised into 16 food categories and then selects types of food that they have consumed in the last 24 hours. At the end a summary is provided based on nutritional aspects.

Next they can explore available locally grown crops and vegetables that can address nutritional deficiencies identified in their diet. They also can obtain information about how to grow these crops.

The business model

This project originated from a team spanning 4 countries and comprising 16 researchers as part of the Australian Africa Universities Network (AAUN). One of the studies that inspired the project was a study of what households in four of South Africa’s poorest rural communities eat in summer and winter. It found that when households grew their own crops to eat, their dietary diversity improved. This research originated from the University of Pretoria.

A digital solution has been utilised successfully to address similar issues in India centered around a smart computing framework. Combining insights from this on the ground experience and the research the team designed a mobile based information system for Africa to inform about crops that can be grown locally to address nutritional deficiencies in their diet and information about how to grow these crops.

The researchers are creating a database of crops that can be grown in different parts of Africa and the types of nutrition these crops can provide. Using Food and Agriculture organisation guidelines they have devised a way to identify missing nutrients in people’s diet. This enables the product to recommend locally grown cereal, fruits, and vegetables that they can eat, information about how to grow these crops and related nutritional aspects.

KEy Value Proposition

Empowering mothers in their role of family custodian through personalised education and advice

Getting children the right nutrition in the first 1000 days is the best investment in their future, giving them the opportunity to grow and develop physically and mentally. The tailored advice of the smart computing framework enables direct, clear, actionable advice for mothers who have the greatest impact on their child’s future.

Diversify crop production within a community and harness market effects to improve agricultural output

In categorising and publicly providing access to future market supply of crops farmers can improve economic opportunity by diversifying away from crops which over-supply the local or broader marketplace.

Remove desperation mothers feel by increasing access to nutritionally diversified food

By connecting mothers with other community members whom are growing/supplying diverse ranges of foods into the ‘app generated’ marketplace for below market rates or for barter/trade.

OVERCOME ANXIETY HOUSEHOLDS FEEL ABOUT GROWING DIVERSE FOODS ON THEIR OWN PLOTS

Through providing tailored recommendations to crop types which work with the geographical characteristics of their identified location.

WANT TO INTERN ON THIS PROJECT?

LOCATION

Malawi

DATES
PRICE

Academic Credit

All academic credit is subject to approval by each university. Please contact the relevant faculty to apply for academic credit.

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