Career Goals: Acanda Jaswa on solving ‘hidden hunger’ in Africa with HarvestPlus
With almost 10 years spent working with global brand giants Nestle, BMW and Kelloggs in the field of Consumer Marketing and Brand Management, Acanda Jaswa joined non-profit organisation – HarvestPlus in 2014 with the aim of being able to change the stigma of ‘hidden hunger’ on the African Continent. Acanda believes she is part of the African renaissance and her business adds to it.
“As Africans, no one knows us better than we know ourselves. I believe we are best equipped to create our own solutions to the challenges we face on the continent. The work I am doing is playing a significant role in creating a better life for people.Without good nutrition one cannot have good health, without good health one cannot be productive. Africa requires its people to be active and productive members of society; nutrition is an investment.”
Central to her role as Head of Marketing: Africa, Acanda aim is to motivate consumers to eat biofortified crops (staple crops enriched naturally with micronutrients) as a sustainable way to curb the alarming levels of ‘hidden hunger’ (micronutrient deficiency) in Africa. Biofortified crops were listed as one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2016.
Acanda grew up as a third culture kid, in 6 countries across the globe. This fueled her love for travel (To date – Acanda has traveled to 35 countries) as well as her understanding of the role food plays when it comes to basic access and woman around the world.
Women are more economically active in Africa than anywhere else in the world (as farmers, workers and entrepreneurs) so HarvestPlus places a special focus on women in within their programs. Acanda’s general push is the understanding and knowledge that woman are the ‘key agents of change’ in agriculture, nutrition and food choices for their families. Harvest Plus work with women farmer cooperatives to produce and sell biofortified crops in their communities. The company also runs education programs through clinics and women’s groups. The pilot initiative for Biofortified crops launched in Rwanda & Nigeria to tremendous success. Biofortified crops are also available in South Africa (Sorghum, Maize and Vitamin A sweet potatoes).
Research in Africa has shown that although an understanding of exactly how vitamins and minerals work may be low, it is understood that they are ultimately beneficial for children’s growth and development and well being of the whole family. Universally one of a mothers biggest concerns is whether they are providing the best nutrition possible for their children. The mothers they work with reported that even though staple foods such as maize keeps the family full and gives them energy they worry that it does not provide the necessary nutrition.This is where biofortified staple crops such as Vitamin A maize make the difference.