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SHGs promote iodised salt in western India

Feb 25, 2009

International experts from the Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency recently visited Rajasthan to step up efforts for controlling malnutrition in the country. They appreciated a local project in the region which ensures the supply of quality iodised salt through self-help groups.

Jaipur, Rajasthan: India is the world's fourth largest salt producer and the vital dietary mineral also played a huge role in the country’s freedom struggle. Salt taxes had secured the British empire and inspired revolt exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi's historic Dandi March in 1930.


International experts on salt and iodine deficiency recently met in Jaipur to develop solutions to tackle malnutrition in India and rest of the world.

During the two-day meeting from February, 19-20, 2009, Nicholas Alipui, Chairperson Iodine Network Chairperson and UNICEF Director of Programmes said, “Every year in India around 14 million children are born with the highest risk in the world of brain damage due to iodine deficiency.

“India is home to the largest population of unprotected infants, “he said, adding that protecting new generations from iodine deficiency should be of primary importance for India.

Supporting the MDGs

Formally launched at the UN Special Session for Children on May 8, 2002, the Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency functions through the resources of a number of global organisations.

Some of these include UNICEF, World Health Organization, World Food Programme (WFP), EU Salt, Micronutrient Initiative and International Council for control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) and Centre for Disease Control and Protection.

This collaborative global network will provide all support to India achieve the targets to reduce infant and maternal mortality ratios under the Millennium Development Goals.

The members of the board of the Iodine Network made a field trip to Nawa situated near the historic Sambhar Lake - often described as a "salt hub" of Rajasthan.

The visitors to this dusty town in the state’s Nagaur district were impressed with a unique pilot project on salt iodisation by small and medium salt producers.

The experts praised the initiative in controlling malnutrition and felt that it should be replicated in other major centres of salt production.

Local capacity building

The experts were informed how the Nawa project has organised small and medium salt producers into self-help groups (SHGs), which have formed an apex cooperative body for salt production, iodisation and market linkages.

The cooperative federation, named Naveen Utsah Sahakari Samiti, has also improved the SHGs' access to institutional credit and ensured sustainability to their enterprise.

The project is a joint initiative of the WFP and Micronutrient Initiative, and guided through the central government's salt commissioner and implemented through the Jaipur based NGO Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON).

The project, which began on a small scale in September 2007, has now enabled the Naveen Utsah Sahakari Samiti to have 211 small and medium salt producers as its members, which have been grouped under 20 SHGs.

Through these efforts, over 1.55 lakh mt of salt has been adequately iodised during the project period and the SHGs have developed their own brands of salt - "Keerti" and "Sukhara". The visiting members were informed that over 4,800 mt of iodised salt has been marketed under these brand names.

Deepti Gulati, WFP project in-charge for Rajasthan, pointed out that a 100% subsidy on potassium iodate, mixed in the salt for iodisation, is currently being given to the salt producers and it would be progressively reduced in the coming months, followed by a total phase-out in 2010, after which the producers would be self-sufficient.

As part of the project, the SHGs have been provided with the crusher-cum-salt iodisation machines free of cost, generating a sense of partnership and ownership. The iodine content in the salt, which should ideally be 30 ppm at the manufacturing level, is tested twice a day to ensure good quality of salt.

CECOEDECON project in-charge in Nawa, Rambabu Sharma, said the capacity enhancement of SHGs and improving their managerial skills to run the units efficiently was an important element of the project. The Sahakari Samiti also creates awareness among the local communities for generation of demand for good quality of iodised salt.

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