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Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Dr. Eileen Omosa Researcher at We Grow Ideas, Canada
05.07.2013
Eileen

Hi there,

I have three suggestions interlinking the three levels i.e. policy, programme and partnerships: Nutrition enhancing agriculture starts with the seed we put into the soil; has it been stripped-off some nutritional elements or not. Does the seed demand for monocroping which results in mono-consumption or is the seed friendly to other food crops on the farm? To respond to issues of agricultural production of nutritious food, calls for the media, extension agents, education system, healthcare providers, and policy makers to encourage the continued consumption of `good food' - nutritionally. A good example is the partnerships witnessed in Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s. The new government at that time took up agriculture=nutrition=wellbeing through consumption of locally available and affordable foods as one way to announce its presence to the citizen. With the knowledge that majority of families owned a radio and listened to national news at least three times a day; the practice was that a patriotic or nutrition related song was played on radio at the end of the news broadcast. There was also reference to where anyone in doubt could get detailed information, including schools, hospitals, clinics, extension agents, etc. Similar information was shared to women at pre and post natal clinic visits. It was during that decade, when as a teenager that I acquired my current knowledge on individual agricultural food crops (indigenous and introduced) and their nutritional value, which I practice to date.

Policy and partnerships come in at the level of marketing. Governments and other development agencies need to borrow something on marketing from the private sector, especially the private sector in fast foods. I am not advocating for regulation; that will waste precious time and resources in courts, I am advocating for informed competition: With the widespread use of public and social media, people in both rural and urban areas rely on media messages to reach certain decisions. It is time policy makers and advocates of agriculture for good nutrition  embraced the use of public and social media, otherwise, as I have said before through a different forum, mothers will sell the eggs, bananas and millet that they grow on their farms to purchase bread and a soft drink for their children. WHY, because they have seen and heard in the media that such purchased foods will make their children happy and proud of them; a goal sought after by many parents.

Partnerships: Once we spread the message on the simple cost-benefit linkages in  nutrition-oriented agriculture, good health and wealth/lower medical costs. Once more people get reminded of the role of nutrition in wellbeing, they will start looking for nutrition filled agricultural products, and anyone interested in business will become a supplier with little effort. The best evidence is in the vegetable section of larger grocery stores in Nairobi and other major cities. My near future study is to analyze implications of the urban consumption of indigenous foods to the nutrion-well being of rural households. The folks in cities are in search of nutritious foods, they got to know that the most affordable nutition is found in indigenous foods, and the private sector has benefited by making such foods available, from rural farms where they are grown. A partnership between private sector in urban settings and rural farm workers.

Thanks and more examples can be found at eileenomosa.com