Local Purchase of Solar Salt Increases Income and Improves Nutrition in Guinea

by World Food Programme | World Food Programme
Tuesday, 8 July 2014 11:43 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Using a new method for extracting salt that relies on the sun and wind, small-scale farmers in Guinea are now producing a naturally-iodized salt without damaging the environment. WFP has already purchased 35 mt of the local salt, providing an important source of income for smallholder farmers while improving the nutrition of local communities.

In Guinea, traditional methods for producing salt have detrimental effects on the environment, as three kilograms of wood is usually burned to produce just one kilogram of salt. Through a new, environmentally-friendly extraction technique, however, farmers are using the combined power of the sun and wind to extract the salt, crystallizing brine on black canvas. This method produces a naturally iodized salt, called solar salt.

While solar salt has numerous advantages, commercializing the product has been a challenge, and farmers have built up stocks but struggle to sell the salt. In addition, competition with Senegal, lack of processing capacity, low consumer awareness and limited institutional recognition have made it difficult to promote the product in Guinea.

However, thanks to a collaboration between WFP and the federation of peasant organizations of Lower Guinea, local producers are now helping meet WFP's demand for iodized salt. Farmers have already sold 35 mt of the sustainably-produced salt to WFP.

"We are extremely happy with this purchase; it gives our producers the income they deserve and encourages them to keep producing" says Foulematou Camara, president of the federation of peasant organizations of lower Guinea.

A win-win in Guinea In addition to supporting local small-scale farmers and stimulating the local agricultural economy, WFP's purchase of solar salt contributes to efforts to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in Guinea.

Consuming iodized salt is central to the fight against iodine deficiencies, which can cause severe and sometimes irreversible disorders such as miscarriages, infant mortality, growth retardation, mental retardation and birth defects. Since solar salt is naturally iodized, integrating the locally-produced variety into regular WFP food assistance was easy.

"It's a win-win situation," says Elisabeth Faure, WFP representative in Guinea. "The local purchases benefit small-scale farmers and traders by increasing their incomes, and the salt is a key part of the food WFP provides to support families who really need our help to get enough food with the right nutrients."

 The locally-purchased solar salt is being used for WFP Guinea's emergency assistance and school feeding programme. In total, about 114,000 people receiving WFP assistance in Guinea will use the solar salt over the coming six months.