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UNICEF catalyzes production of iodized salt

© UNICEF/ Gurinder Gulati/ 2009
Women Self Help Group Members displaying packets of iodized salt produced by Vasudhara Dairy

Gurinder Gulati

Valsad, Gujarat: Whereas production of common salt marked the beginning of the first revolution in Gujarat, production of “iodized common salt” by Vasudhara Dairy is being described as the second revolution in the state. Use of iodized salt will go a long way in protecting lakhs of women and children from iodine deficiency disorders like cretinism and goiter, etc.”, said the Director of Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat, Dr Vikas Kishore Desai. 

Dr Desai was talking at a function organized by Vasudhara Dairy to inaugurate the production of adequately iodized salt in Valsad. Gujarat, with its long coastline of 1600 kms, produces more than 70 percent (10,586 metric tonnes) of the country’s total salt.  Despite Gujarat being the largest salt producing state in the country, only 56 percent of the population consumes adequately iodized salt (source: NFHS-III).

During a five-day microplanning exercise conducted in villages of Valsad, which is also one of the salt producing districts, it was found that a majority of families were using non-iodized salt. Non-availability of iodized salt at a reasonable price was identified as one of the main reasons for this.

During a five-day microplanning exercise conducted in villages of Valsad, which is also one of the salt producing districts, it was found that a majority of families were using non-iodized salt. Non-availability of iodized salt at a reasonable price was identified as one of the main reasons for this.

UNICEF has been working with NGO partners in Valsad since 2005 to bring about behaviour change among families. Vasudhara Dairy has been one of the main partners promoting behaviour change at family level through more than 2,500 village volunteers.

Since Vasudhara Dairy has a large network of over 370 dairy cooperatives and more than 1,200 Women Self Help Groups in 80 percent of the villages in Valsad district, UNICEF seized the opportunity of advocating with their senior management to take up production and marketing of “iodized common salt” to overcome the problem of availability at village level at a reasonable price. At the request of Dairy, a feasibility study was conducted by UNICEF to assess various factors like scope of partnership with local cooperatives producing common salt, economics of its iodization and the potential for marketing through dairy cooperatives and Self Help Groups (SHGs).

© UNICEF/ Gurinder Gulati/ 2009
Dr. Yogendra Mathur, inaugurating the iodization plant

Convinced with the findings of the study, Vasudhara Dairy and as a result of sustained advocacy by UNICEF, a deal has been inked by Vasudhara Dairy with Chharwada Salt Cooperative Society to lift all the iodized salt produced by them and market the same through their dairy cooperatives and Women Self Help Groups at village level.  “We are not only involved in Dairy business, but along with UNICEF, have been working for the survival and development of children. We are happy and satisfied with what we can do” said Chairman of Vasudhara Dairy, Moga Bhai Desai, at the inauguration ceremony. 

Convinced with the findings of the study, Vasudhara Dairy and as a result of sustained advocacy by UNICEF, a deal has been inked by Vasudhara Dairy with Chharwada Salt Cooperative Society to lift all the iodized salt produced by them and market the same through their dairy cooperatives and Women Self Help Groups at village level.

Whereas, UNICEF has supported the repair of a mobile iodization plant which was supplied to Chharwada Salt Society a few years ago, Vasudhara Dairy has set aside a working capital of approximately Rs 1 million for lifting iodized salt, its packaging and marketing through dairy cooperatives. To ensure that the salt produced by the Dairy is adequately iodized, UNICEF has supplied a mini laboratory to the cooperative society for monitoring iodine levels during production. Staff has also been trained in this regard to carry out testing. Once, the production of iodized salt picks up, the Dairy plans to invest a capital of about Rs 3.5 million in installing a washery and crushing plant so that high quality iodized salt can be made available to the people of Valsad district and its neighbouring areas.

Expressing his immense pleasure over this unique partnership among the three partners, namely UNICEF, Vasudhara Dairy and Chharwada Salt Society, President of Chharwada Salt Society, Mr Mohanbhai, remarked “It is like “Triveni Sangam”, i.e. the auspicious coming together of three organizations. I have no doubt that this will be a revolution in the history of Gujarat to make iodized salt available to the common people at reasonable prices”. The salt will be sold under the brand name of “Vasudhara Iodized Salt” at an MRP of Rs 3 per kg as against a price of Rs 10 for popular brands of salt.

Chief of UNICEF Gujarat, Dr Yogendra Mathur, inaugurated the iodization plant and lauded the efforts of Vasudhara Dairy and Chharwada Salt Cooperative Society to make this happen. In his inaugural address, he remarked that it is a historical day in the cooperative movement of Gujarat, as Gandhiji had launched the movement of producing indigenous salt from this very place in the pre-independence era. That movement was now being extended to fulfill the dream of making iodized salt available to the people of Valsad. Dr Mathur expressed the hope that this initiative will not only benefit millions of women and children of the district, but will also open the doors for economic empowerment of Women Self Help Group in the district.

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