Este miembro participó en las siguientes discusiones
Dear FSN members,
I appreciate the insightful and interesting comments posted by colleagues hitherto. Obviously, a one-size-fits all policy approach cannot work for different countries because of inherent differences in the context (political, socioeconomic and institutional), geographical and historical factors. Historically, in the case of Zimbabwe, it had become crystal clear that the skewed distribution of land was impeding the achievement of an equitable food secure nation. This justified a need to redress fundamental land ownership issues across different classes of the society through the land reform. To revamp the fledging productivity in agriculture, the government has recently introduced a command policy approach, whereby a set of farmers are selected on the basis of different criteria such as land size, previous production levels and marketed sales. These farmers are supplied requisite inputs, given production targets for specific crops-this year maize. It does seem like such a program has been successful in the short-run because of the follow-up extension given to farmers (innovation). Productivity gains are likely to have a positive spill-over effect on food security and nutrition. I am also of the opinion that a similar command urban agriculture will be hepful in solving food insecurity in urban areas. Such an approach has also been proposed for livestock and forestry where farmers will be given specific targets to achieve in their livestock systems. In addition, farmers may be required to implement specifc types of woodlots which are consistent with a national forest management strategy. This is expected to redress environmental degradation and climate change in the long-run. Nonetheless, the sustainability of the approach is not clear, given that it may require a continuous flow of subsidy from the government.
It’s great to be back after a two-year hiatus. I agree with most of the previous contributors (David Michael, Themba Phiri, Lal Manavado) on the critical role that ICT plays in reducing the transaction cost associated with accessing strategic information, which may, in turn help to boost productivity and efficiency of resource use.
I, however, wanted to delve on the monitoring and evaluation of ICT projects particularly focusing on project attribution. To illustrate my point, I will randomly pick on two in Sub-Saharan Africa: There are a number of interesting projects that have been developed over the years in East and Southern Africa. In Rwanda, for instance, they have a project called E-Soko, run under the auspices of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and provides market-based information on prices of various agricultural products. This helps farmers to make informed decisions when selling and buying. Down in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s Econet has also developed an initiative called “Eco farmer” and it is a platform that seeks to provide a wide array of agricultural information on the farmers’ phones. While the impact of such kind of initiatives cannot be denied, there is a possibility of “under/over-estimating” benefits. For example, when a farmer receives information about weather patterns or new crop varieties, it is typical for them to share with other farmers in the community who may have phones but not necessarily participating in such projects. Moreover, they can also share information with others who may not even have phones at all. This implies that if we were to compare “participants” and “non-participants” (i.e. the with and without comparison), we are essentially observing groups of farmers that have been interacting to an extent that the control group now has experienced “information gains” because rural communities tend to be closely knit societies.
This brings me to the question that I would like to pose to other members: what techniques can we use to properly measure the benefits emanating from ICTs?
Thanks for re-igniting this important issue of street vending. Certainly, street food vending is one of the hallmarks of most developing countries. For the obvious reason that many urban people cannot afford the so-called safe food found in licensed supermarket chains. You have given an interesting context within which this discussion will be carried out: that FAO does support street food vending. I found this point particularly refreshing because many governments are only starting to notice that this kind of activity can provide any meaningful contribution to lives of individuals, families (mostly women) and nations. Now, let me turn my attention to question 1. Pertaining to question one, I do know of scenarios where there are indeed direct linkages between street food vendors and peri-urban farmers in Zimbabwe. However, not all peri-urban agricultural activities are recognized particularly those taking place on council land. Again, all street food vending is illegal. Thus their relationships are based on social capital and highly informal networks. However, there are an number of projects in Harare (Zimbabwe) that were mooted under the auspices of Natural Resources Institute and other NGOs where vendors received training on various issues ranging from personal hygiene, marketing, food preparation and food storage. Unfortunately, follow up studies indicated that some foods weren’t safe. For example microbiological counts showed high amounts of Salmonella in meat or streptococci bacteria on fruits. Institutions and organizations should have an important role to play but it is rare to typically find Street Vendor Associations to lobby and advocate for formalization of this activity. Again, the legal framework still patchy such that you have food health laws not in sync with urban councils Act. Without Urban Street Food Associations, it is going to be difficult to make a case for a policy framework that integrates their activities into mainstream economy. Moreover, they would need financial support which must be sustained in the long run. The private sector, NGOs and civil society in general could be involved here.
Thank you for bringing up a very interesting set of questions but I am particularly focusing on the 3rd one. It is everyone's desire that malnutrition should be booted out of humanity. However, when you look at existing data for Sub Saharan Africa and the developing world in general, malnutrition seems to be on the increase although this is not true in some countries. Typically, this challenge is viewed as a structural problem, by the West and so they usually intervene by using food aid (best practice?). However, most eminent economists like FA Hayek, a Nobel Prize winning Austrian economist, indicated that transferring food aid suffers from knowledge and incentive problems. Thats why you find that food aid can be used to further the "nests of rationally self interested politicians" (Stigler, 1971). A recent book by Dr. Dambisa Moyo (an eminent African scholar) about Food Aid clearly indicates that food aid is not a solution to malnutrition. I think that we can have differing viewed on this point. So, then whats the solution? Western solutions suggest gravitation towards free market mechanism (more than 100 years of evidence). In other words, there is need for governments in the LDCs to create an institutional environment (property rights, laws, contract enforcement) that will guarantee that resources will flow to areas where there are most valued. Here political will is important.
We usually look to government to proffer solutions but what about in anarchic situations (where there are no governments) (see Buchanan) In these cases, capacity building of micro institutions will help alleviate malnutrition. An example is community driven orphan programs that focus on food and nutrition security needs of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs). In these programs people are self motivated and don't need external handouts. In a nutshell, there are antecedents that must be solved first before articulating good nutrition policies because a policy is just a piece of paper. It only becomes effective if institutional conditions and political will coincide.
Dear FSN members,
I would to take this opportunity to thank all contributors and the interest generated in this discussion. Many experts believe that indigenous knowledge (IK) is an important tool for achieving food security and nutrition in rural poor communities especially in semi-arid areas and therefore, it should be taken seriously at the policy level. This has been illustrated by the numerous examples from different countries and contexts. A significant number of culturally important methods of food preparation have disappeared mainly because of the forces of urbanization, the emergence of a technologically advanced food processing system which has ushered in fast foods. This reduces the time spent on food preparation and unlocks opportunities in other productive areas for women. Furthermore, constraints like high fuel cost creates a disincentive for people to stick to methods based on IK. Thus is important to ensure that indigenous foods are prepared in a way that meets the needs of a changing environment characterized by dynamic tastes and preferences. This can be achieved through value addition, branding and linkages to local and international markets.
Many interesting, lively and relevant examples of indigenous food preparation were given and more could be provided. For example unique ways of preparing garri, fufu, sweet potato chips, cassava bread, Molinga Olifera, Gundruk, Injera, smoked meat with soda, blood and plantain bananas. Food preparation methods are anchored on culture and they have symbolic, economic, social and spiritual values. Nevertheless, some methods result in loss of nutrients for example through overheating which can be avoided for example by shredding leaves. Knowledge on food preparation is usually passed from generation to generation (in rudimentary communities) through informal mechanisms such as the elderly people in the society (grandmother and mama). Such a method of passing information is important but not reliable. Therefore, there is need for formal documentation of these methods. Many organizations have been actively involved in this process but results are scattered.
A lot of research has been and is being conducted to improve food preparation methods based on IK. A good example is that of cassava preparation proposed by Dr Julie Cliff and Howard Bradbury, which reduces cyanogens substantially and ensures that food, is safe to consume. Many public institutions are supportive of efforts to promote indigenous food preparation methods through documentation of food recipes such as FAO recipes for high Andean products. A multi-sectoral strategy involving government and non government institutions will help to integrate IK into food security and nutrition programs. An issue that remains unanswered is related to the nature and structure of incentives necessary for governments to consider IK in food and nutrition policies and strategies.
Dear Forum members,
I would like to thank you all for the contributions made to this discussion to date. One striking observation is that people do not share the same opinion when it comes to the value of indigenous knowledge. Peter Steele's remarks are quite interesting. He argues that as we move into the future, we may not need to be stuck with archaic food preparation methods. He observes that urbanization, dynamic food preferences coupled with a technologically advanced food processing industry may imply that "old" methods may be abandoned. He however indicates that for food insecure communities, there is need for enhancing communication for better food security approaches. Here is the catch, can we abandon some indigenous food preparation methods, which are integral to social, cultural and traditional setups in the name of development? A lot can be said on this because there are different views to development (eg Amartya Sen's model). In my view, there is need to adopt some methods which continue to be beneficial to humanity. Development is context specific and what may fit for developed countries is usually not appropriate for less developed countries due to many factors such as income and geo-physical conditions. Gopi (India), Hiwot (Ethiopia), Manuel from Ecuador and Daniel (Uganda) gave some very lively examples for foods that have medicinal and culinary values such as Molinga Olifera, Injera (which is fermented), smoked meat with soda (which enhances shelf life to as long as 6 months) and plantain bananas. This does indicate that these methods still have economic, social, cultural, traditional and spiritual value in a wide spectrum of communities and contexts. Isabello also talks about Amaranthus and maca roots which have been integrated into household gardens. More importantly, she highlights that people have not forgotten about indigenous methods ( a point reiterated by Dr Kabirone from Guinea). Institutional support seems to exist for example efforts by FAO to document food recipes for high Andean products (Salcedo and Byron). However, there are challenges related to documented evidence on the efficacy of these methods (Hiwot, Ethiopia). This discussion is by no means exhaustive because the subject are is vast (Ronald). There are other dimensions such as ethnobotany from which many modern medicines have been created, which have not been discussed here.
Dear Forum members,
I appreciate the dimensions that have been added to this discussion. Perhaps one of the most crucial comment is from Prof Tim Williams from the University of Georgia. I must start by saying that literature does acknowledge the difficulties of showing the difference between "Western" (modern or scientific) and indigenous knowledge (traditional, local, cultural). I had to scramble for a few clarifications. Chambers (1980) attempted to differentiate between the two forms of knowledge by suggesting that Western knowledge is typically centralized and linked with the state machinery (research institutes and universities) while traditional knowledge is dispersed and "associated with low prestige rural life". Traditional food processes include methods like soaking, fermentation, cooking, pounding, and sprouting (Lipski 2010). Another distinguishing feature of traditional knowledge is the "organic relationship between the knowledge and its community" and subsequent harmony with nature. It will be interesting to see what other forum members have to say on this. When does a food preparation method cease to be traditional? still lingers on...
Traditional food preparation may seem inefficient but they are symbols of a culture (Gill). In order to characterize these methods, there is always need for further context specific research due to variations across cultures (Dr Abedin and Pitam from India). Documentation of these practices is important particularly in semi-arid zones (Gill). I am not sure if any of our forum members could give examples of cases and situations where yeast and bacterial cultures are treated and mainitaned (Heslop-Harrison) but certainly there food safety issues to talk about here. On a related note, soaking is a common practice used in many cultures. There is "science in this practice" because it helps remove antinutrients and enhance bioavailability of nutrients (Andersen). Finally and very interesting, KV Peter observes specific aspects of food preparation that reduce nutrient loss like cutting and cooking without adding water at low heat levels.
Dear Forum members,
Once again, I would like to thank you for your contributions. The centrality of the market mechanism in shaping the role of indeginous foods has been emphasized by experiences from West Africa, Brazil and Costa Rica (Gerardo). However, the forces of urbanization and Western diets are likely to result in loss of local knowledge. Laura highlights that markets for products such as fufu, garri and cassava are still rudimentary in West Africa. She reiterates the need for education for example through the use of celebrity chefs to train local communities about indeginous food preparation methods. Other other hand, Francisca from Zambia observes that too much boiling results in loss of nutritional value for instance in cabbages. This was also pointed out by Gill earlier on. Francisca further suggests that elders are important in the transmission of local knowledge from generation to generation (KV Peter). Carla refers to a multisectoral approach which is encapsulated in the UNDP report for Brazil. An interesting aspect of this discussion are the different types of foods including garri, fufu, sweet potato chips, cassava bread and a different array of fruits and the interesting methods of food preparation. Francisca indicated that sweet potato chips are sliced, salted and dried. This can take up to six months and therefore provide and important strategy for alleviating transitory food shocks that households face during the dry season. Although it seems that public institutions are supportive of efforts to promote indeginous food preparation methods, do you have any experiences of any legislative frameworks created in this regard? Another related aspect to this discussion is the role of insects in the food security because most are prepared using locally known methods of preparation (FAO report).
Thanks and well appreciated,
Hello FSN members,
Thank you very much for the interesting contributions made so far. There are about three themes emerging hitherto. First, is that some indigenous methods of food preparation have disappeared mainly because of urbanization (Gill, and Robert). I certainly agree on this point because the more a society becomes urbanized, the more they are exposed to fast foods and the less likely they will continue to eat indigenous food. Constraints include high fuel cost which creates as disincentive for some people but could be reduced for example by shredding leaves (Gill). Secondly, members agree that indigenous foods will remain important as long as they are adapted to a changing environment characterized by dynamic tastes and preferences. Therefore, the main issue is how to add value (Robert and Ahmad) through appropriate technologies. Third, KV Peter indicates that most of the food is prepared by "mama and grandmother" and so they represent an important source of information related to food preparation. But how do we ensure that their knowledge is passed on to future generations? Finally, a very important issue highlighted by Robert is the need to exploit branding opportunities in export markets. Tell us more about your local foods. I really appreciate your comments and hope to recieve more suggestions from you!