Cultural issues play a huge role in the malnutrition project, especially among the 6-23 months age group. One of the biggest issues regarding this project is that the women of the household take so much pride in the food that they make for their children. Often times they have been making the same recipes for decades, passed down through generations. Introducing an entirely new food product disrupts this continuity and may not be appreciated by the women in Sierra Leone. Additionally, the people of Sierra Leone have some “food taboos” that may seem strange to outsiders, but are practiced regularly in their country. One specific taboo that comes to my head is a simple banana. Mother’s will not feed their sons bananas because somewhere in their history, it was established that bananas would stunt the penile growth of young boys. These “food taboos” make it difficult to create food product. One final issue is their lack of clean, consumable water. This requires water to be boiled prior to use which takes time and energy. A perfect food product would be able to be eaten without requiring the mothers to gather water on their own.
For the most part, I have not experienced many of these situations at my home in America. Something that I have experienced frequently is family recipes. My mother and grandmother specifically have many family recipes that they value and sometimes asking to make the recipe a different way insults them. Another time that I have experienced similar cultural situations was when I went camping and cooked my meals over the campfire. It took a fairly long time for water to boil over the fire, compared to a common house stove. Lastly, this example may not exactly align with an example from Sierra Leone, but my mom no longer makes bacon for anyone in my house after research came out suggesting that it may be carcinogenic.
Some of these cultural practices can be leveraged to make our product more desirable. One of the more obvious cultural practice that we can leverage is the difficulty getting clean water. If we could develop a product that doesn’t require any water at all, I think the product would be very popular. It would distinguish the product from other food supplements that are already in practice and it would make preparation much easier for the mothers. Additionally, if we market the product correctly avoiding any “cultural taboos”, the people of Sierra Leone may be willing to try our product. Finally, if we are able to somehow show the mothers that our product significantly helps their children to be healthier, maybe they will be willing to try a new recipe.
Not only does the culture of Sierra Leone present challenges to our venture, the location of Sierra Leone does as well. Being on the west coast of Africa, many resources that are available in the United States are not as available in Sierra Leone and thus more expensive. While trying to make a product that is affordable, additional expenses should be limited. Also, our product should be readily available for people all throughout the country. In a country with limited highways and roads, it may be difficult to distribute our product. Finally, in such an agriculturally rich country, many people in Sierra Leone prefer to eat the food that they grow on their farm. This would make it difficult to introduce a pre-prepared product into their diets.
While the African continent presents several challenges it also presents a few advantages. For instance, while there are a few resources that are not as available as they are elsewhere in the world, there are some resources that are significantly more available in Africa than they are elsewhere. For instance, peanuts and cassava and incredibly cheap and readily available in Sierra Leone. Another resource that is unique to Africa is their marketplace. People travel from all over to go to their respective markets to buy their food. This offers a perfect place for us to sell our product once it is developed. Finally, the closeness of women in Sierra Leone offers a perfect way for our product to be publicized. Through word of mouth, mothers could talk about our new product and hopefully make it popular.