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Re: Making agriculture work for nutrition: Prioritizing country-level action, research and support

Moira Beery Siyakhana Initiative, South Africa
02.10.2012
Moira Beery

1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

Greater focus needs to be put on aspects of food insecurity other than availability - too often food security interventions focus only on agricultural production. A much greater focus on linking food to needy communities and focusing on proper utilization in required. Five suggestions are: 1) In the area of agricultural production, a greater focus is needed on skills transfer than than on technology and land access. We find that too often under-prepared farmers are given access to land and tools but not to the farming and business skills and mentoring required to run a successful farm business. Farming is not an innate skillset, and education and training need to respond to this and better prepare farmers to care for land and soil, and maintin the business aspects of the farm. 2) Facilitate access to foods, particularly nutritious whole grains, fruits, and vegetables through small and medium sized markets. Ensure that emerging farmers have appropriately scaled markets into which they can sell product and that customers overlooked by traditional commercial retailers can access. 3) Make meals, not just raw ingredients available to food insecure people. It is unrealistic to assume that all people have the knowledge, interest, time, space, and equipment required to make nutritious meals. Meal programmes in schools, community restaurants, and other food support such as parcels must be made available. These types of access points also serve as outlets for emerging farmers to sell their products. 4) Invest in crops that maximise nutritional content. If governments or agencies are investing in agricultural activities, they should incentivise highly nutrition foods over foods of low nutritional value. This can be achieved in part through crop choice, and also through healthy soils and organic soil care techniques. 5) Organic farming not only can achieve foods of higher nutrition, but the environmental health benefits of pesticide and chaimical fertiliser-free faming contribute to overall improved health and less of a reliance on costly outside inputs. 

2. To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

Low-cost farm-site cooling systems are needed for farmers in rural areas so that they make harvest and preserve sensitive fresh foods for market. Efficient ways of meal distribution, rather than just raw food distribution is needed. Research into micronutrients and how to maximize nutrition in foods through growing and preparing foods is needed. 

3. What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

We can assist government in identifying needy communities and individuals where farming support and training is needed. Communities can best identify where markets or community restaurants should be located to best serve residents. Understanding of local foods and food preparation can help those in the nutrition community to suggest appropriate food changes to maximise nutrition