On January 20th, in Abidjan, Professor Carolina de Weerth and postdoctoral fellow Bonnie Brett, in collaboration with Dr. Wilbert Sybesma of the Yoba for Life Foundation, held a one-day workshop on the potential benefits of supporting locally produced and affordable probiotic products in Côte d’Ivoire. The Yoba for Life Foundation (http://www.yoba4life.org/) has created the world’s first generic (e.g., affordable!) probiotic starter culture and is dedicated to increasing health and wealth in low income countries by making it cheaply available to local producers. While Yoba for Life has reached many independent producers in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and now Ethiopia, they have yet to expand into West Africa. In attendance at the workshop were two Ivoirian women who currently produce and sell probiotic yogurt using the Yoba starter culture, women from a local church group who are interested in beginning such a business, and five large scale NGOs whose missions align with the Yoba mission and who may be interested in supporting the introduction of a sustainable Yoba practice into Côte d’Ivoire.
The workshop was a great success, with Wilbert teaching about the potential health benefits of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Yoba for Life’s aims, a lively discussion among the attendees about how Yoba could benefit the inhabitants of Côte d’Ivoire, and even a Yoba taste-test, provided by the women who currently produce it in San Pédro, a coastal town in southwestern Côte d’Ivoire. At the end of the day, Yoba for Life had made many contacts that could facilitate greater availability of the Yoba starter culture for local businesses.