A salt producer from Ghana eliminates iodine deficiency one bag a time

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From the corner of his expansive salt fields, overlooking three piles of pink-colored salt, Ernest Osei wonders how he’s going to move his iodization machine.

“A restaurant owner came a couple of days ago to buy this salt – he said it would look great on steaks and needed it quick.”

The machine sat across a stream, ready to get working.

“I”ve gotten used to the iodization process, and now I won’t let a bag out of here without it. It’s part of us.”

A long-time salt producer and the nephew of the owner of the largest salt production company in Ghana, Ernest is a focal point in the industry.

Selected as a recipient of a joint WFP-MI iodization machine, he has now been using it for a couple of months.

“Before the machine, it would take 12 people to bag and iodize the salt, now it takes only 6. When other producers ask about the machine, we tell them how it’s improved our efficiency, and they all want one!”

Getting producers to iodize their salt has long been a challenge for international organizations, who seek to use salt as a carrier for this essential nutrient that prevents the cognitive and mental impairment of millions.

Although internationally more than 70 per cent of homes have access to iodized salt, in some salt exporting countries like Ghana, consumption is barely above 40 per cent. But this is changing.

“When UNICEF first told me about iodine in 1992, I really worried that it would increase costs, but organizations like MI have helped us out. I’m the vice-president of the Ghana salt producers association and we all know about it, we realize why it´s important. We also worried about the machine when we first got it, but we just had to get used to it. The machine makes iodizing salt make sense for us.”

Since 2005 MI has been working in Ghana, ensuring the iodization process becomes a way of life for salt producers like Ernest. In all the eight African countries in which MI has programs, iodine deficiency disorders are being eliminated one bag at a time.