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Re: Indigenous methods of food preparation: what is their impact on food security and nutrition?

Edward Mutandwa Mississippi State University, United States of America

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.

Thank you,