The mechanics of nutrition in Senegal

Two workers are repairing salt iodization machines in Senegal

Workers are busy repairing salt iodization machines. Senegal is the largest producer of salt in West Africa, making it an important exporter throughout the region. Salt is often sold, bartered or traded to those most vulnerable to iodine deficiency disorders, making iodization efforts a matter of great importance.

It is ten o’clock and the sun already spreads its warm rays over Lac Rose, Senegal. From the shore, one can hear the clamor of salt harvesters singing at work since sunrise.

Immersed in water up to their chest, these men break blocks of salt on the bottom of the water before they shovel it up and fill canoes with a capacity of more than one metric ton. On the banks, women land boats and pile salt on the edges to dry in the sun.

A little higher, two men deal with salt iodization machines. These men are technicians working on the maintenance of the machines.

The acronyms on the back of their blue shirts indicate they are from the Lycée d’Enseignement Technique et de Formation Professionnelle (LETFP) – a Senegalese technical and vocational secondary school that trains students in various areas such as mechanics and agricultural.

MI, through funding from the Government of Canada, supports training in the areas of preventative and corrective maintenance of salt iodization machines for local mechanics as well as drivers of the machines.

Salt iodization machines breakdown very frequent due to the highly corrosive environment for the metal parts of machinery and heavy vibration caused by the generator. In addition, the need for appropriate technical preventive and corrective maintenance of machines is high.

Broken machines were often used for a long time before being repaired, which would push small salt producers to resort to using inadequate iodization methods, like hand pumps.

Repairs were typically handled by local mechanics who often did not have the right tools for the job or needed other skills to repair the machinery. This would mean salt not being adequately iodized or lost work for the salt producers, as they waited for machine repairs.

Now, though, every two months – based on a maintenance schedule – teams from LETFP do the preventive maintenance of 82 iodization machines for 37 groups in Dakar, Kaolack, Fatick, Kaffrine, and St. Louis.

Their turn-around time is fast, too – repairing machines within 24 hours of the breakdown, which prevents significant downtime on the side of the salt processors. In addition, the LETFP customize machines to adapt them to survive longer in the environment.

Machine operators are trained in preventive maintenance and local mechanics are trained to enhance their technical capacities to repair the machines.

MI has been supporting salt iodization efforts in the country for many years, working with small-scale salt processors to not only improve the quality of their salt but also to ensure the salt is adequately iodized to protect against mental impairment.

Through Canadian support, MI is able to not only ensure local economic development through vocational training but also support sustainable salt iodization methods in Senegal.