OfERR Spirulina

The Spirulina, blue-green algae, has become part of OfERR’s income generation scheme as well as the nutrition programme for refugees in India since 2002. OfERR had used Spirulina to combat mal-nutrition among malnourished women and children in the refugee camps, while promoting this as a substantial income generation program among the deserving vulnerable households. With that, OfERR had effectively overcome infant mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition, epidemics and life threatening diseases among the refugees living in camps in Tamil Nadu, India.

Spirulina is remarkable blue – green algae known for its nutritional properties. It has been in existence for 3.6 billion years and has the ability to grow in both ocean and inland waters. Regarded by some as one of the most powerful foods on earth, Spirulina is now being consumed in more than 75 countries around the world.

When the refugees in India faced the problem of under nutrition, especially among adolescent girls (undernourished potential mothers), OfERR introduced cultivation and distribution of Spirulina as a remedial measure. The mother plant was in the Nallayan Research Centre for Sustainable Development (NRCSD) where the program was inaugurated, tried out, researched and implemented. The Spirulina that was produced in the NRCSD was first distributed to the adolescent girls, chronic patients and other vulnerable persons, etc. As it showed improvements in the nutritional status of the beneficiaries, mini production units were set up in the refugee camps. Spirulina, apart from the nutritional improvement, helped in the growth of hair and soon became popular among the adolescent girls.

In the last few years, OfERR has ventured out in two addition areas, which includes increased production of Spirulina and marketing of it among the Indian population. At the same time, OfERR conducted regular training programs for the Indian public. Currently, we produce 200 kgs of Spirulina of which about a 150 kgs are released to the market as Spirulina and value added products of Spirulina (examples: Spirulina soap, Spirulina shampoo, etc). OfERR also has trained over a 1500 Indian citizens and a few foreign nationals in the production and marketing of Spirulina and more than 50 of them are engaged in production and marketing of Spirulina products.

Dengue, which is a viral disease, is feared as a killing disease in Sri Lanka. Harward Medical school in Harward University, USA has come out with the finding that Spirulina inhibits the multiplication of the HIV AIDS virus. NASA research confirms this and Spirulina is recommended to build resistance among HIV patients. Recent researches have also shown that Spirulina builds resistance in Swine Flu and Dengue patients. The important health benefits of Spirulina are:

  • Spirulina contains numerous essential vitamins and minerals, and is high in protein;
  • It is rich in Vitamins A, B, B12, and B complex, as well as Vitamins C and E, Riboflavin and Thiamine;
  • It contains important minerals such as Iron, Calcium, Zinc and Phosphorous;
  • It possesses 20% more protein than soya beans and 10% more beta carotene than carrots; and
  • It is free from cholesterol and starch, and constituted by approximately 60% protein plus smaller proportions of carbohydrates, fat and fibre.

With the intention of applying and disseminating in Sri Lanka the knowledge and skill that OfERR had acquired in India, OfERR set up a unit at Tellipalai, Jaffna as a trial venture to cultivate Spirulina in Sri Lanka. The program has been successful. Further, the water available in Tellipalai is ideally suited for Spirulina cultivation and the quality of Spirulina produced in Tellipalai is regarded as better than that produced in India. Various institutions in Sri Lanka have requested OfERR to disseminate the knowledge and skill and help in setting up units to cultivate Spirulina in Sri Lanka. They also look forward to develop the market taking into consideration the fear and prevalence of Dengue as well as under nutrition in various parts of the country.

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