An engaging initiative called OBAASIMA has been making waves when it comes to developing fortified food products in Ghana. OBAASIMA is a trusted trademark aiming to increase the availability of and access to new affordable nutritious fortified food products for Ghanaian women.
The inspiring team behind the OBAASIMA seal is dedicated to changing the food environment in Ghana by creating healthy food options for women. At Sight and Life we are passionate and supportive of OBAASIMA’s pursuit and wanted to learn more about what drives the group behind the OBAASIMA seal. Therefore, we sat down for an interview with Daniel Amanquah, OBAASIMA’s fortification specialist, to find out what makes him tick and much more.
SAL: Sight and Life
DA: Daniel Amanquah
DA: I attended the University of Ghana in Legon and graduated with a Master of Philosophy in food science and a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and food science. During university, I had an internship in a factory working with a couple of companies to help introduce new products to the market. Following school, I worked with a colleague to develop our own food product in which we wrote, “Development of a Tigernut Based Ready–to-Use Therapeutic Spread” which was published in the International Journal of Agricultural Policy and Research.
SAL: Describe your current role at OBAASIMA.
DA: My current role at OBAASIMA is as the food fortification specialist working on behalf of Sight and Life in Ghana. One of my key focus areas is supporting companies who sign onto the OBAASIMA seal. This work involves modifying the product to include the vitamin and mineral premix and examining the nutrition profile to ensure it fills the criteria developed in the OBAASIMA seal code of conduct. This stipulates acceptable levels of sugar, fat and salt level for products to carry the OBASSIMA seal. We then test the premix with a scientific analysis to make sure we are on track to develop quality food products.
What I love about my role is visiting the factories, sitting down with the key players, and working through the product development phase.
SAL: How did you hear about OBAASIMA?
DA: My first job was with the GIZ in 2014 and I was part of the inception team for OBAASIMA when the project was called “Affordable Nutritious Foods for Women (ANF4W)”. I was the technical officer for the project and collaborated with Sight and Life, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and colleagues at GIZ to get the pilot phase of the project up and running.
SAL: In two words how would you describe OBAASIMA?
DA: One word is innovative. The second, I would say, is complex. OBAASIMA is a very good model for a lot of companies in low- to middle-income countries to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies and encourage healthy eating.
SAL: What do you like most about working for OBAASIMA?
DA: What I like most is the team, teamwork, and authenticity.
SAL: What is the biggest challenge for OBAASIMA?
DA: Acquisition of companies to join the OBAASIMA seal has been quite tough especially with the level of sugar required as part of the seal. Sugar is a driving factor for companies, particularly juice and beverage companies that have a lot of sugar in their products. We have not been able to engage any of them yet, but we are still working hard to get them on board. The OBAASIMA seal has quite stringent qualifications, so it is quite difficult for a company that is not nutrition sensitive to join the seal.
I mean you speak to people about nutrition and they know about good nutrition. However, the industry tells you, “But, this is what is on the market, this is what people are buying. So why do you want me to change the formulation? Why do you want me to make it more healthier?” Therefore, it is interesting and complex to convince companies to include the OBAASIMA seal on their products. They know it is beneficial to reduce sugar and fat while including micronutrients, they know it is going to help reduce malnutrition and the double burden of malnutrition, specifically in Ghana where you have high obesity rates. So they know this and they appreciate it but they tell you, “the market is not like that, and the customers want this.” Albeit, we do have successes and the momentum is growing.
SAL: In your opinion, what makes the OBAASIMA seal stand out?
DA: The innovation that comes with the OBAASIMA seal has not been done or piloted anywhere in the world, at least not that I know of. Currently, Zambia, through the SUN Business Network, has a similar seal, however, it is a general seal for good nutrition not for a specific target group. OBAASIMA is unique. It is only for processed and package foods, which are ready to eat and includes 18 essential vitamins and minerals for women of childbearing age. We believe the focus on the first 1,000-days is crucial to addressing malnutrition in women and children. This is the first time we are doing something like this in Ghana, and I am proud to be a part of it. The results that will emerge will be a good model to demonstrate what can be done and replicated in other places as well.
SAL: What does the future look like for OBAASIMA?
DA: To broaden it, not just for women of child-bearing age, but for all segments of the populations and to go beyond Ghana. I see in a few years several multi-national companies signing on to the OBAASIMA seal and a global movement of eating healthy and getting healthy processed foods onto the market. We have a lot of work on our hands.
The landscape is changing and we will get to a time when people will demand healthier foods for their children and themselves and enforcement of healthier product profiles will being to happen. Companies will be forced to cut out the less desirable ingredients such as sugar. Once we get multi-national companies to come on board, adaption will follow, every other company will follow, and the OBAASIMA seal will become big. So I believe there is a future for this seal, it needs more advocates! We will get there.