African governments should promote sustainable small-scale horticulture in rural, urban and peri-urban areas, in order to boost consumption of fruit and vegetables across the region. That was one of the key recommendations of the Anglophone African Regional Workshop on Promotion of Fruit and Vegetables (PROFAV) for Health, held in Arusha, Tanzania in September 2011.
The five-day workshop, which was part-sponsored by FAO, was attended by more than 100 experts from 20 English-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of the workshop was to further implementation in African countries of the FAO/WHO framework of action for promoting fruit and vegetables (F&V) for health. It sought to map existing national policies and programmes, document production and consumption, support programme development, and strengthen cooperation among health, education and agriculture sectors.
The workshop found that in Africa, consumption of fruit and vegetables is below the recommended daily intake of 400g/person. Vitamin A deficiency continues to be of great concern, particularly for children in almost all African countries. Unhealthy consumption patterns and obesity are rising in the region. Excess consumption of calories co-exists with under nutrition, constituting what is known as the double burden of malnutrition.
Integration of efforts among horticulture, nutrition, health and education stakeholders is considered essential for the effective promotion of F&V for health, particularly in a multi-sectoral approach. There is also need for joint efforts between the public and private sectors in commercializing and modernizing horticulture.
While promotion of F&V has long been part of general nutrition education, there is now a need to focus on promoting availability and consumption. The workshop recognized the importance of advocacy, information and community education in changing negative attitudes to consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as prejudices against producers and sellers. In particular, men’s customary reluctance to consume vegetables and fruit, and the association of traditional vegetables with “poor people’s food”, are issues that need to be addressed through targeted education campaigns.
The workshop was organized under the patronage of Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, with support from WHO, FAO, GlobalHort, CIRAD, NEPAD, TAHA and HODECT. Funding was provided by Belgium and France.
Click here for the full workshop report.