Nutri'zaza, a social business combating malnutrition in Madagascar: Profiling Mrs Mieja Vola Rakotonarivo

Mieja Vola Rakotonarivo

In Madagascar, nearly half of children are malnourished. The main cause is the poor quality of the food they receive, notably in disadvantaged households (due to inadequate breastfeeding practices and complementary foods that are nutritionally very lacking). For 14 years, GRET, a French NGO, has been fighting early childhood malnutrition in Madagascar by educating mothers and distributing infant flours through the hotelin-jazakely restaurants for babies.

We would like to introduce you Mrs Mieja Vola Rakotonarivo, the director of Madagascan social enterprise Nutri'zaza. Born in Madagascar, Mrs Rakotonarivo has studied in the Catholic schools of the capital and graduated with a degree in Agronomy from University of Antananarivo in 2001 and a Master's degree in Food Technology at the ENSIA SIARC in Montpellier in 2002-2004. As part of her Master’s, she carried out a diagnostic test study and came up with proposals for improving production procedures of the infant flour for GRET.

In 2004, Mrs Rakotonarivo joined GRET as rural manager and later as food manager on the project 'Nutrimad' to combat malnutrition. More specifically, she was responsible for projects implemented in the eastern region of Madagascar as well as for the formulation and development of new products for vulnerable target groups. In 2011, she was in charge of creating the social enterprise called 'Nutri'zaza'; a company dedicated totaking over and extending the activities undertaken within the framework of the Nutrimad project. Since February 2013, Mrs Rakotonarivo has been running Nutri'zaza and the distribution network of Koba Aina, the "baby restaurants", throughout the island.

"Koba Aina" is infant flour complementary to breast milk. It is produced and packaged from Malagasy raw materials and sold at low cost in restaurants – 5 to 10 times cheaper to other baby food equivalent to "Koba aina". "For a person with a minimum income, the product represents 5% of his monthly budget," says Mrs Rakotonarivo. The product is also distributed free of charge by local NGOs to people with very low incomes. The product complies to strictest international quality standards from the nutritional and health point of view. In 2015, Nutri'zaza won the award "Grand prix de la finance solidaire, Prix Entreprenariat dans les PED".

Young, married, mother of two young children, and trail and sports enthusiast in general, Mrs Rakotonarivo juggles her planning between the different challenges of her personal and professional life. "It has been a long journey with load of pitfalls. In relation to an NGO, the question of economic viability is omnipresent, After some years of difficulties, Nutri'zaza is now on track. Everyday, about 8000 children eat "Koba Aina" in their home or one of restaurants for babies. I am passionate about my job and I am extremely happy for working for Nutri'zaza, an entreprise which is actively engaged in social work," Mrs Rakotonarivo states.