More than half the world’s population is adversely affected by malnutrition” says FAO. I attended a conference on Nutrition Sensitive and I was shocked as to how much young children in rural communities are suffering due to improper nutritional practices, I saw some malnourished children and that gave me chills.
I and every attendee of that event was made to understand that some parents are still living in ignorance around this issue of malnutrition. Some fathers would prefer to be served with fish while their children go without fish. Some mothers in the bid to manage money prepare food that lacks nutritional content and value. Some even go as far as selling the Nutrition pack because they are not informed on the dangers of doing so.
Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture therefore, seeks to address the underlying causes of malnutrition. The entire food system, – from harvesting to production to processing, packaging, transport, consumption and waste management matters and needs to be checked for nutritional balance. Cassava processed in a dirty environment and packaged carelessly can cause harm to the body. Processed foods that do not have adequately and proportional food value, when taken over a period of time can cause harm. Food needs to have a proportion of adequate nutrients before it is consumed. E.g. A meal of just plain rice without any source of protein or vegetables added to it, isn’t nutritious enough. As little as putting crayfish while preparing that meal, or cutting vegetables and adding can change the nutritional value of that food. Also, there are some processing methods that dry out the nutrients in a food, thereby making it undesirable.
According to the FAO, Nutrition-sensitive agricultural production can be implemented in three main areas:
- Making food more available and accessible. Increasing agricultural production makes more food available and affordable, which improves both the health and the economic status of the community. Sustained income growth in turn has a sizeable effect on reducing malnutrition.
- Making food more diverse and production more sustainable. Increasing diversity in food production and promoting sustainable production practices like conservation agriculture, water management and integrated pest management can improve nutrition levels without depleting natural resources. Family farming, home gardens and homestead food production projects can make a wider variety of crops available at the local level.
- Making food itself more nutritious. Fortification can prevent micro-nutrient deficiencies by enhancing micro-nutrient content in foods through processing, plant breeding and improved soil fertility.
The FAO’s strategy for combating malnutrition advocates for a holistic approach, incorporating explicit nutrition objectives into agriculture, health, education, economic and social protection policies in developing countries and they produced a document on it, download here.
USAID launched a technical guidance brief which focuses on nutrient-rich value chains 1 as a nutrition-sensitive agriculture investment, because Agriculture investments made with the intention of also improving nutrition will impact on nutritional status and consequently good health and well being. Find the briefs here
What does nutrient rich meal or commodity entail?
According to USAID, A commodity is defined as nutrient-rich if it meets any of the following criteria:
- Is bio-fortified
- Is a legume, nut, or some seeds such as sesame, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, or sprouted legume seeds
- Is an animal source food, including dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), fish, eggs, organ meats, meat, flesh foods, and other miscellaneous small animal protein (e.g., grubs, insects)
- Is a dark yellow or orange-fleshed root or tuber
- Is a fruit or vegetable that meets the threshold for being a “high source” of one or more micro-nutrients on a per 100 calorie and per 100 gram basis
How can we come in? What can we do?
– Let’s join efforts with Health Organizations, Governmental bodies, NGOs, CSOs, Nutritionists to incorporate the necessary objectives and indicators they come uo with into design.
– Let’s promote nutrition through researching how nutrition works and educating others to follow suit.
– As we produce, as farmers, lets increase nutrient-dense crops and improve our quality of production (processing, storage and preservation)
As the Government,
- Create more access to and expand the markets for those involved in nutrition sensitive agriculture production and promotion
- Strategically target the vulnerable by creating designs that work for each community and addressing it specifically especially for the women because they are the major home caretakers.
- Target increase to markets for nutritious foods.
- Improve equity access to these nutritious foods.
- Maintain or improve the agricultural natural resource base (i.e., water, soil, air)
So when next you are planning/preparing your meal ensure that there is enough dietary intake.
Image Credit: USAID, Spring, BioMed, iStock