Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bangladesh - changing lives, building a healthy community, one yogurt at a time

Bangladesh has, since its independence, struggled with the difficulties of a rapidly growing population, and one of the side effects of this is relatively high levels of malnutrition amongst children. Whilst rice is filling, and as agricultural improvements have increased supply, proteins and vitamins are more of a problem.

And so, in 2005, the founder of Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus, met with the head of Groupe Danone in France and, between them, the idea of producing something to address the issue. The answer was a small, low cost yogurt called Shakti Doi, made from pure full cream milk, that contains protein, vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc and other micronutrients.

What has made it so successful is that the product, which comes in small 80 gramme pots, costs just 5 Taka (about 3p), and is therefore comparatively affordable. The first production plant opened in 2006, and it is hoped that as many as fifty such plants will be operational by 2016.

Best of all, Grameen Danone has been set up as a social business enterprise, run on a no dividend, no loss basis. In addition to the improvements in public health, the business creates jobs for livestock herders and in distribution, and profits will be used to create new opportunities for welfare and development.

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