The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund this month has invested $1.45 million (€1.25m) into the project that is a partnership between Dutch NGO Yoba-for-Life and the University of Western Ontario (UWO).
More than 30,000 infants, children and adults are accessing the probiotics via more than 35 ‘community kitchens’ in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya via dairy cooperatives producing 7000 liters of the affordable and healthy yoghurt per week.
The Canadian government investment – the Yoba-for-Life project was one of eight awarded by the research fund out of more than 120 applications – seeks to reach 1m people within two years. Little over a year ago just 10,000 people were trying the yoghurts and milks.
The freeze-dried 1 g Yoba-for-Life sachets have been shown in studies to reduce rates of neonatal sepsis and necrotising enterocolitis, diarrhoea and broader malnutrition.
“At the end of the day, it’s the local people that make this work, not us,” said project leader Dr Gregor Reid from UWO.
“We’ve been really impressed by the incredible empowerment that local mothers and groups have found. They believe in it. So it’s really grassroots.”
According to Yoba for Life founders Dr Wilbert Sybesma and professor Remco Kort, Yoba-for-Life concept is built on the principles of tailoring local solutions; creating buying power; improving access and sustainability.
The sachets employ Lactobacillus rhamnosus Yoba (the generic form of LGG), Streptococcus thermophilus and/or Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 donated by Dr Reid, Danish probiotics giant Chr Hansen and CSK Food Enrichment in the Netherlands.
These strains had an “extensive research and a 12-year track record in the African setting” Dr Reid told us.