Spirulina is a micro-algae that grows naturally in certain alkaline lakes of warm countries. It can also be grown in water with remarkable efficiency. It is consumed dried. Its exceptional contents in proteins, amino acids, vitamins (A = Bétacarotène, B12), gamma-linoleic acid and trace elements (iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium,… ..), make it an excellent food supplement that can strengthen the immune system of the body. With 1 or 2 grams per day a child suffering from severe or medium malnutrition can be cured in 5 to 6 weeks.
Antenna Technology Partnership
Antenna Technologies, an NGO whose main objective is the fight against malnutrition, decided to develop the culture of spirulina in the developing countries. Tarbiyya Tatali (RAEDD) has volunteered to be a partner in this project.
Tarbiyya Tatali is committed to delivering 20% of the production of spiruline to health services in charge nof fighting malnutrition. The rest can be sold.
Construction of aquaculture basins and starting production
The site has been chosen, electricity and water made available, tanks, toilets and buildings constructed, and spirulina sown in tanks. A person is responsible for stirring the tanks of spirulina every hour every day. Spirulina has been put under cultivation at the beginning of the summer 2007 and began production. The Staff responsible for the care of malnourished children in Dogon Doutchi greatly appreciate the effectiveness of spirulina, which shortens the hospital stay of the numerous children in Niger.
Extension of tanks
The production now exceeds 30 kilos per year. But spiruline is costly, and locals are not used to it. Spiruline can become a major factor of food security, particularly for mothers and young children. Aids have been found to assist in distributing it in integrated health centers, particularly in the town of Dankassari.
The production amounted to 30 kilos per month during summer 2011.
The situation in November 2011.
The spiruline farm has reached an average output of 42 kilos per month over the past 15 months. Eight kilos are delivered every month to the Dogon Douchi Hospital as humanitarian aid to fight malnutrition. The sales amount to 28 kilos, namely 16kgs sold by RAEDD in Niger and 12kgs pertaining to aid programs (Monaco Red Cross, Antenna Technologies, fund raised by AECIN). The stock has risen to 175 kilos, and the farm has not been able to pay its employees every month (six months’ salary owed now). Antenna Technologie, with the support of AECIN, is joining a pro-active drive for the commercialization of spiruline in Niamey. A second project involves creating a partnership with the Mother and Child’s Health Fund implemented by the First Lady.
The situation in 2012.
Despite efforts to increase sales of spiruline in Niger, by engaging a sales agent, subsidizing the sales price, campaigning for donations and subsidies in France, the stock has risen to 250 kilos in 2012 and the spiruline farm workers’overdue salaries have accumulated.
Following the appointment of a doctor in each community of the Dogon Doutchi department, sales at subsidized price are now going to develop. Malnourished children will get spiruline treatment for 0.8 euro per child, while the cost price is at 2 euro.
The situation in 2013-2014.
Sales through chemists’shops in Niger and a few exceptional sales in France have resulted in diversification and improvement of the situation, the stock fell to 170 kilos in the summer of 2013, but some wages are still unpaid.
In 2014 the wage situation has been improving, with 55 kilos in stock: sales have diversified, sales at aided price have been increasing, and 80 kilos have been donated to the National Out-Patient Treatment Center, which coordinates Aids patients’ follow-up treatment (thanks to a donation from AECIN’s own funds).
The situation in 2014-2016
All outstanding wages have now been paid. A policy of price-aided distribution, through rural communities’ integrated health centers, now makes spiruline widely available. This is financed by AECIN’s funds.
The situation in 2017-2018
Setting up Antenna Technology Niger has improved commercial delivery in Niamey. Aided price delivery remains low. Humanitarian donations have been resumed for Dogondoutchi Hospital. And rehabilitation works as well as solar energy equipment have been carried out at the farm, through financing from the Niger Water Supply Society.
The situation in 2020
Although AECIN no longer contributes to the spiruline farm, it keeps contact with the activity through the farm’s monthly report. The farm yielded 156 kg in 2020 (against 328 in 2019). Out of this production, 46 kg were supplied to the Dogondoutchi hospital and 45 kgs were supplied to the Niamey nutrition center and to a NGO in Zinder. The future of the spiruline farm rests on securing perennial markets.
Shutdown of the farm in 2021
As it hasn’t been possible to find a long-term economic solution, the farm closed its activities in 2021.