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Re: The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

Concern 3 University of Guyana, Guyana
04.10.2013
Concern

The 2006 World Food Summit (WFS) defined the concept of food security as when “all people at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

This definition included nutrition relative to the previous concept. Nutrition in developing countries is not valued as highly as it should be. In the developed world, nutrition is vital to the development of human capital. In recent years, diabetes, high blood pressure; stroke, heart diseases, and cancer have been on the rise. They have replaced malnutrition and transmittable diseases as major public health problems. This goes in accordance with the paper, “The Agriculture, Food and Health Challenge” that was released in 2009 by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

 

 In recent times, developed countries have introduced several measures to help eradicate the harm to public health as a result of poor nutrition. In Guyana, for example, stakeholders inclusive of small farmers are advocating for a reversal of the current trend of consumption. Shifts from processed foods, beverages, and other such food products lose much of their valuable nutritional capacity rendering them less wholesome to foods produced organically.   

 

Fresh food and fruits are abundant in Guyana. However, a major challenge to small farmers is getting that food to the people who want it. In a sense, this is a typical case of market failure. The inability of sellers and buyers to meet or food to reach to those who desire it most is not occurring. This results in a natural case where the food which actually reaches the market is sold at higher prices resulting in lesser consumption. This tragedy has harmed both famers and consumers. Opportunity is here created for all stakeholders’ government, civil society, and the private sector to work together and bridge the gap.   

 

It has been estimated that on average Guyanese do not consume 2 serving of fruits per day. Such estimates reflect less than half of what is required. The majority opt for aerated beverages over water, or fruit juices. One should note that manufactured fruit juices are not as healthy as they may appear; the sugar level and the amount of preservatives added often neutralize the vitamins that were there to begin with. Yet Guyanese prefer those products over the local juices available.

With these choices that consumers tend to make, it is not surprising that outcome is ill health. Many of the consumers of these processed foods are children, teens and young adults, when one takes a good look at what happening, it is deplorable. In another 10 years when these children turn into adults, the rate we are currently seeing they are likely to have a number of health related issues. This is not a future we would like to have.

Some of the measures that can be taken to help prevent these inevitable outcomes are; reshaping the way the population sees agriculture and its products. This refers to educating the public of the blatant blunders in their judgment as it comes to food consumption. The media plays a central role in this aspect. Advertisements and programs can be broadcast to expose the nation to the better ways of living and should also reveal the detrimental effects that not reforming can have on them all.  This would enable the population to greatly change their skewed perspective of what agriculture is and the benefits of fresh agriculture produce. Many are under the impression that consuming local products is a sign of being inferior to the high class of society. This false impression should be washed away form the minds of the people through sensitizing programs.

Government can have a program which is aimed at strictly sensitizing the public of their nutrition and what they can do about it, to improve it. Schools and women should be major targets because children are easier to mold than adults, women are the ones who often do the cooking and therefore if they are educated in better nutritional practices it will better the entire family. Families are what make up communities. The spill off effect of such a simple feat would lead to such major improvements in nutrition. Agriculture pays a major role in better nutrition; after all the products which are consumed all stem from the agriculture sector. Educate the population about better nutrition and the agriculture sector is bound to flourish.