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Food security and nutrition

Olam’s focus is on improving access to safe, affordable and nutritious food for our farmer suppliers and in the workplace, so that their dietary needs and preferences are met. This enables them to live an active and healthy life, which in turn supports productivity and livelihoods.

Key 2016 focus areas

  • Continue to support smallholders with crop diversification for improved income and food security
  • Increase nutrition training for communities through partnerships
  • Increase fortification of food stuffs in Africa

Key sector collaborations and commitments

We are guided by

  • Olam Livelihood Charter
  • Commitment to continuous engagement with communities around our developments to understand needs (FPIC1 procedures)

1 FPIC – Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

In this section we cover:

Olam’s role in food security

Around 500 million smallholders produce 80% of all the food consumed in Asia and Sub‑Saharan Africa. Yet, as a sector, agriculture has the highest incidence of families living below the poverty line. Given that many of our products (aside from rice, dairy and wheat) could be termed as niche ingredients, or raw materials such as rubber, our role in driving food security might not seem obvious. But our close working relationships with farmer suppliers, and our expertise across the value chain, enable us to equip farmers and their communities with the knowledge and tools for sustainable and profitable agriculture, including staple food crops.

Promoting crop diversification to increase incomes and food access

Just as a balanced diet is nutritionally diverse, so a healthy livelihood shouldn’t be overly reliant on one crop. Encouraging farmers to diversify crops helps to stagger income and spread risk. It is also good for the soil. Farmers can grow other crops for cash or for family needs. In Côte d’Ivoire, a cocoa programme, with various customer partners, is supporting women to grow cassava, a food staple. In 2016, we helped 11 women’s groups establish nurseries from 5,000 vitamin A fortified high‑yielding cassava plants. These nurseries can now each produce 50,000 cassava plants every year. We plan to support a further 9 groups in 2017.

Small changes in Cameroon rice logistics make a big impact on food waste

Cameroon currently imports over 80% of its rice. In 2012, Olam’s rice team put in place protocols to reduce losses across the segments of the supply chain under its control:

  • Stronger bags
  • Ensure re‑bagging of torn bags as soon as possible
  • Labour training for bag handlers
  • Laying tarpaulin underneath bagging operation
  • Maintaining pallet quality
  • Surprise audits.

From 2012 to 2016, losses in logistics reduced from 1.25% to 0.8%. The amount of edible rice saved equates to around 2 bowls each for the 23 million people of Cameroon.

Olam's priorities to increase global food security

Educating farmers about nutrition

Smallholder communities need support beyond yield improvements, and that includes  nutrition education. Vegetables and protein‑rich foods grow in most regions but smallholders often don’t understand the benefits of a balanced diet. Pilot modules started in Côte d’Ivoire were expanded in 2016.

Promoting nutrition in the workplace

Many adults eat at least 1 meal a day at work, which makes it a logical place for health intervention.

In 2016, as per our Goals, we continued to develop and review an internal Standard to apply to the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact.

Fortifying foods in Africa

One of the most cost‑effective strategies to improve nutrition, fortification is sometimes mandatory, such as for our wheat processing in Nigeria and Ghana; however, often the choice lies with the manufacturer.

In 2016, our Packaged Foods and Grains businesses produced over 26 billion servings of fortified foods. These included:

  • 6 million servings of fortified Milky Magic and All Milk biscuits
  • 6 billion servings of fortified wheat flour in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon
  • 86 million servings of fortified tomato paste.

Oil palm is native to the West and Central African regions. Palm oil is an essential part of many traditional African cuisines. In early 2016, our refinery in Mozambique started fortifying palm oil with vitamin A. 74% of children under 5 in Mozambique are vitamin A deficient, with negative impacts on growth, immunity and development. Recognising palm oil as a strong delivery for vitamin A, in November 2016 the Government of Mozambique made fortification mandatory.

1 GRAINE, which means ‘seed’ in French, stands for ‘Gabonaise des Réalisations Agricoles et des Initiatives des Nationaux Engagés’ (Gabonese Initiative for Achieving Agricultural Outcomes with Engaged Citizenry).
2  70,000 ha to be developed for palm plantations and 8,000 ha for food crops.

The second Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security launched

Sponsored with our international scientific partner, Agropolis Fondation, the US$50,000 prize rewards an outstanding research project for its potential impact on the availability, affordability, accessibility or adequacy of  food. Over 90 applications have been received and the winner will be announced in 2017 on

The winner of the 2014/15 Prize SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI‑Rice) used the funds to develop an international network of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) researchers in 45 countries.

The platform facilitates collaboration across borders on the SRI methodology that enhances rice productivity, water conservation, livelihoods, soil health, and crop resilience to climate stress.

Creating the future we want – learning from experts and collaborating with peers

In September 2016, Olam convened more than 300 delegates in Singapore to attend the Building Sustainable Futures Forum (BSFF). Our intent was to gather our peers across the agri‑value chain to identify areas for collaboration in alleviating global hunger and nutrition as part of the SDGs. We recognise that solving food security without depleting natural resources or impacting climate change can only be achieved by harnessing our collective strengths.

A key highlight of the BSFF was the launch of the Global Agri‑business Alliance (GAA), also initiated by Olam. Its aim is to collectively address sustainability, social, labour and environmental issues where the agri‑sector has a shared responsibility. The first meeting of the GAA in December 2016 initiated a series of working groups which will tackle the systemic issues identified by the sector.

Watch the panel videos of the BSFF here.

For more on the GAA visit

The full report is available to download here.