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Posts Tagged ‘FAO’

A call for food systems to improve nutrition

Posted by African Press International on June 10, 2013

New FAO report urges food system changes to eradicate malnutrition

JOHANNESBURG, – Poor health and losses in productivity caused by malnutrition are costing the global economy US$500 per person per year, or a staggering $3.5 trillion annually, according to a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Many communities rely on foods that do not meet their nutritional requirements, and when faced with food price shocks, poor families often cut out nutrient-rich foods like milk. The 2013 edition of FAO’s annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, released today, underlines the need to ensure all the institutions and people responsible for producing and processing food “align to support good nutrition”.

The report also provides an overview of the linkages between agriculture, quality food, health and the economy, emphasizing that “agriculture and the entire food system… can contribute much more to the eradication of malnutrition”. But while discussions on these linkages have been taking place for at least three decades, the problem of malnutrition remains unresolved.

Malnutrition comes in a variety of forms: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity. Two billion people in the world suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as anaemia, for example, and more than a billion people are overweight and prone to chronic and life-threatening illnesses like diabetes.

The report urges policymakers to address malnutrition through changes in food systems, public health and education, as well as improvements in supply chains and agricultural productivity.

Incentives needed

John Hoddinott, a senior researcher at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told IRIN that the 2013 SOFA report “gets many things right: that malnutrition imposes high costs on individuals and societies, that addressing malnutrition requires multisectoral approaches, and that agriculture is essential for better nutrition.”

But Hoddinott – who authored several 2008 studies in the Lancet showing that inexpensive nutrition interventions can reduce infant and maternal mortality and boost economic growth in developing countries – has some reservation about the report.

He says SOFA “has less to say about the incentives needed at all points in the supply chain to ensure healthy food is available and accessible for all.”

For instance, rapid agricultural and economic growth has not translated into a significant reduction in child malnutrition in India, which has the largest population of undernourished children in the world. Various explanations such as economic and gender inequality have been offered, says SOFA, but the phenomenon remains “largely unexplained” and needs more research.

Lawrence Haddad, head of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) says his problem with all reports that consider the linkages between agriculture and nutrition is that they do not talk enough about how to provide incentives to the agriculture sector to improve nutrition.

He said in an email, “We know WHY it is important, and there are plenty of opportunities (the WHAT), but they are only seen as opportunities by nutrition people, not by agriculture people. We need research to better understand institutional drivers, incentives and barriers.”

Questions remain

The 2013 SOFA recognizes that knowledge about many of the issues covered in the report remains incomplete. Many countries lack basic data and indicators for evaluating and monitoring the effectiveness of initiatives attempting to improve food quality.

And the report points out that there are still many questions about the effectiveness of home gardens, the role of gender, the fortification of food with micronutrients, technological innovations, biodiversity and the role of local foods in improving nutrition.

There are also gaps in researchers’ understanding of consumer choice and nutritional outcomes. “Concepts such as ‘dietary diversity‘ and ‘healthy diets’ remain fuzzy and difficult to measure objectively,” the report says.

Additionally, contentious issues involving import restrictions and targeted farm subsidies, which serve as a barrier to food production and trade, remain unresolved at the World Trade Organization.

jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Nutrition and food security can be improved

Posted by African Press International on April 20, 2013

Photo: FAO
Needed: Improved access to wild foods such as insects

NAIROBI,  – Malnutrition could be greatly reduced and food security improved by ensuring improved access to nutrient-rich forest-derived foods like berries, bushmeat, roots, insects and nuts for the world’s poorest populations, experts say.

“I believe forest foods are particularly important for reducing malnutrition when it comes to micronutrients such as vitamin A and iron,” Bronwen Powell, a nutritionist and researcher at the Centre for International Research on Forests (CIFOR), told IRIN.

Making these foods accessible would mean bringing them to markets to benefit the urban poor, many of whom find imported fruits and processed foods unaffordable, and giving people legal access to forests to obtain bio-resources like game meat and honey in areas where it is illegal to do so.

Nutrient potential

Experts told IRIN that while forest foods are underused, they could prove more affordable and more acceptable than other food options.

“With food becoming scarcer, there are calls for communities to look for alternative food sources and foods – some of which might not be readily acceptable to them – but wild foods and fruits have been a delicacy for generations and would be readily acceptable to many people,” said Enoch Mwani, an agricultural economist at the University of Nairobi.

In its 2011 Forests for Improved Food Security and Nutrition report, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) noted that households living on the margins of poverty could, during the “lean season” or in times of famine or food shortage, rely on forests to provide “an important safety net.”

Others, like Monica Ayieko, a family and consumer economist and an edible insect researcher at Maseno University, say more efforts are needed to change people’s perceptions about wild foods.

“The Westernization of diets has made people associate wild foods like edible insects – a vital source of amino acids and minerals – with poverty. It is a pity because so many children die as a result of nutrient deficiency, yet these are abundant in wild foods,” Ayieko noted.

“The Westernization of diets has made people associate wild foods like edible insects – a vital source of amino acids and minerals – with poverty. It is a pity because so many children die as a result of nutrient deficiency, yet these are abundant in wild foods.”

Studies have recently suggested that insects are a better source of protein as they produce less greenhouse gases than cattle and pigs.

“We must broaden the use of wild foods like wild insects, like crickets, in poor people’s diets, and the good news is FAO has begun to take [the] lead on this,” she added.

Globally, an estimated 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods, according to FAO.

Some 870 million people globally are food insecure, while a further 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies.

In Tanzania, a 2011 study of 270 children and their mothers, conducted by CIFOR, revealed that children who consumed wild fruits from forests were more likely to have more diverse and nutritious diets.

The wild foods contributed over 30 percent of the vitamin A and almost 20 percent of the iron that the children consumed each day, even though the foods accounted for just two percent of their diets.

Another study in Madagascar revealed that 30 percent more children would suffer from anemia if they had no access to bushmeat. And studies in the Congo Basin show that bushmeat accounts for 80 percent of the proteins and fats consumed by the local communities.

Strategies needed

According to FAO , the critical role forests could play in improving food security and nutrition is usually “poorly reflected in national development and food security strategies. Coupled with poor coordination between sectors, the net result is that forests are mostly left out of policy decisions related to food security and nutrition.”

CIFOR’s Powell noted that “forest foods haven’t received much attention” in part due to the current method of “measuring food security in terms of energy [or calories] and not in terms of micronutrients, which has meant that foods that aren’t a good source of calories [but have plenty of micronutrients] have been overlooked.”

A lack of national policies to guide the use of wild foods, lack of knowledge about the benefits of such foods, and deforestation and land use changes continue to hamper access to these resources.

Bushmeat consumption is also dogged by concerns over conservation and possible health issues, which could result in calls for stronger policies to regulate their use.

Increased investment in forest development by governments and organizations, increased local control over forest management and use, pro-poor forestry measures, and the integration of forests into national food security strategies are some of the ways to boost access to forest-derived foods.

ko/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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