Idea to help malnourished children in Indonesia

March 31, 2011 | By More

Seven-year-old Muhammad Afdal being treated for malnutrition at the Zainal Abidin Hospital in Banda Aceh. (Antara Photo)

The Social Problem
Malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality worldwide, and in 2006 accounted for 58% of the total mortality. A recently published UN report pointed out that 90 percent of the developing world’s chronically undernourished children lived in Asia and Africa, and that 80 percent of them lived in just 24 countries.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates 13 million children suffer from malnutrition in Indonesia. In some Indonesian districts about 50 percent of infants and young children are underweight.

At least 7.6 million Indonesian children under the age of 5 — or one out of every three — suffer from stunted growth, a primary manifestation of malnutrition in early childhood, according to a United Nations Children’s Fund report. The report ranked Indonesia as having the fifth largest number of children under 5 suffering from stunted growth worldwide.

UNICEF recommends that stunting can be significantly reduced if every child is exclusively breast fed for the first six months and supplemented with complementary feeding until 2 years of age with added micro-nutrients such as Vitamin A, B, iron, zinc and iodine.

The Approach
The team at the recent Grameen Creative Lab workshop at NUS recognised that there are already many Indonesian agencies, both government and NGOs, who are already trying to address the issue. What we wanted to do is to develop a long sustainable solution – not only to ensure that assistance to the children is for the long term, but also the mechanism of providing the assistance is sustainable,  i.e. we were trying to construct a Social Business.

Preparing to present the Social Business idea.

First, helping the children. This cannot be just by giving the right food to the children. Mothers feed the babies.  So the mothers need also to be educated about the benefits of breast feeding, how to look after themselves (as we know that health of a mother-to-be also directly affects the health of the unborn child), and the need to eat a variety of food groups.

All elements of the idea for Cooperative Farming

The team learnt that many young mothers were so poor that they could only feed their babies on rice broth! Clearly we had to address the issue of extreme poverty as well. The question was raised why there is not a large variety of vegetables available; and we learnt that most village farms practice monoculture – where the whole piece of land is devoted to a single crop which is to be sold for income. The issue of nutrition has to cover also education, agriculture and local culture.

The second issue to be addressed is how to design something sustainable. The issues had to be tackled step by step, building it over time. We identified community poverty as the overriding issue that, if addressed properly, will lift the well-being of all those living in the villages.

What has to be done to make it work

The Idea for Social Business
The team felt that improving the village  farming methods and productivity will help make a larger variety of marketable food and livestock available for local consumption as well as selling outside their villages. We can help find and develop distribution channels to get a good price, which will in turn lift the village out of poverty line and towards a healthier lifestyle.

A center can be built to educate local girls and mothers about pre- and post natal care for themselves and their babies.

In short, the business is to help build a Cooperative Farming Social Business. The clients are the villagers and the goal is to directly improve their livelihood and indirectly, to build a sustainable living standard so children will no longer be undernourished.

The team named the business “SapiMOO“. The actual Indonesian word has the spelling “sapi-mu”, meaning “your cow”. The business is to help the villagers to build a better farm, with improved crops and livestock, better agricultural techniques, and obtain fair market prices for them.

Talk to us if you have the passion to want make this a reality.  A lot more work is needed.

Read more about How to start a Social Business.

The SapiMOO team at Grameen Creative Lab workshop at NUS

Further reading:
Jakarta Globe story on Child Malnutrition in Indonesia
United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition: 6th report on the world situation (pdf)


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Category: Ideas, Social Responsibility

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

Comments (2)

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  1. santi says:

    i want to get involved, please advise.
    i work and live in Jakarta, but wants to go back to Malang – my hometown, and set up a social business there as well. i am reading Yunus book on social business and am really attracted.


    • Error: Unable to create directory uploads/2018/12. Is its parent directory writable by the server? ET says:

      Fantastic! More people should be involved like you. My suggestion is for you to read the postings here and other places/books/etc. Briefly, this can be summarised as: 1) take your time to thoroughly understand what the problem at home is, that you want to address; 2) think how of a way to create a business that can make money to help these people; 3) seek advice on the business part, keeping in mind your objective in #1; then 4) do it with fun. We can discuss this further separately by email.