Misola flour: Fighting malnutrition in Mali

Farmers and processors in Mali are working together to produce Misola flour, designed to combat moderate and acute malnutrition in children and adults.

Pearl millet is one of the ingredients for Misola flour which is purchased directly from farmers © Misola Association

Misola flour, made of pearl millet (60%), soya (20%) and peanuts (10%) purchased directly from farmers chosen for producing quality grains, has become a staple food in the fight against malnutrition in Mali, particularly for children aged between 6 and 60 months and for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Nineteen traditional production units, often made up of women, source the cereals and legumes that provide the basic ingredients of Misola flour from local farmers. Additional vitamins and minerals are added to improve the flour’s nutritional quality and combat nutrient deficiencies. Finally, amylase (a digestive enzyme) is also added to the flour. Amylase helps the body process carbohydrates into simple sugars, providing a porridge that is three times richer in energy than traditional porridge.

According to Doctor Moulaye Sangaré, who has monitored the use of the fortified flour since it was launched in Mali, “Misola flour’s positive impact on children’s health is apparent. Numerous studies have demonstrated its effectiveness.” One study published in 2012 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism shows that children suffering from severe malnutrition had a normal ‘weight-for-height’ score after eating Misola for 8 weeks. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” says Fernand Rolet, co-president of the Misola Association, which created the flour.

Safiatou Coulibaly, 24 years old, is a regular user of Misola flour, and is full of praise for the product: “Misola flour is not just for children. I used it regularly when I was suffering from malnutrition. Even now, I continue to buy it several times a year.” A 500 g packet costs 400 CFA francs (€0.60) and will last for several meals.

The traditional production units sign a charter agreeing to respect the quality criteria of the flour, and to provide training to persuade local people to try the product. The units, grouped within a federation, also include agents responsible for promoting the Misola flour to pharmacies and food stores, and for carrying out cooking demonstrations in health centres.

According to WFP, around 2.5 million Malians were food insecure in 2016, 315,000 of whom were severely food insecure during the lean season, and nearly a third of children under the age of five were affected by rickets. Organisations that tackle malnutrition, such as WFP, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Save the Children and Care, regularly order Misola flour from traditional production units. In 2016, Mali produced 600 t of the flour.

Created in Burkina Faso in 1982, Misola flour is now manufactured, sold and consumed in nine West and Central African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. In 2016, the Misola Association signed a franchise agreement with Acouns Nigeria Limited – a Nigerian company – to produce and market the flour in Africa’s most populous country.

Soumaila Diarra

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.