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

03.10.2012
Final Year Economics Students (group 5)

Dear Moderator and fellow Contributors, your comments has been very interesting and insightful on the present discussion thus far. We would like to make our contribution to question 1:

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

In maximizing the impact of nutrition in an agricultural investment programme the following aspects needs to be addressed:

  1. An assessment of the current status of nutritional requirement of the population in order to determine the areas that are lacking and by how much. This would provide the information needed to determine the nutritional objectives of the programme with respect to change in climate and its impact on developing countries.
  2. Education by providing awareness and sensitizing citizens about the emphasis that should be placed on nutrition. Women being the care takers of homes should primarily be of focus, this factor is important in improving nutrition, since women play a unique role in the significance for households nutritional outcomes. The choices that women make are found to be more committed to an investment in their children’s health and well being rather than men. Suppliers and producers themselves need to be educated about how to improve the quality of products. In the sensitizing aspect of a nutritional programme technology and more specifically the media plays a major role in the dispersion of information to those who need it. And to encourage behavioral or attitudinal changes through nutrition education to promote the consumption of healthier diets.
  3. Foster institutional collaboration at every stage of production aimed at improving communication, interaction and providing resources to facilitate national sovereignty. By creating an atmosphere for producers at all stages of production to discuss the innovations in the agricultural sector and available resources and technology to improve product quality and output.
  4. Introduce closely monitoring programmes and extensive documentation of activities and results attributable to each activity. Identify potential food safety and security issues - such as contamination, destruction of crops or animals due to severe weather or pest outbreak - and develop a plan for the alleviation of such issues. (food quality). Having an evaluation teams that will set regulations and will ensure that products meet a predetermined recognized hygiene and safety requirement to produce crops of the best nutrition possible.
  5. Improve accessibility both logistically and financially to the targeted group. An increase in accessibility and of nutritional food in rural and urban areas. Ideally making food vouchers available to the lower income households and specifically to those families below the poverty line to ensure each person’s nutritional needs are met. 

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

Research into new approaches of biofortification is needed in the fight against malnutrition and hunger.

In most developing countries the average diet of the poor usually consists primarily of lesser nutritious foods – staple food crops – such as rice and wheat, cassava and maize/corn. These diets result in micro-nutritional deficiencies of vitamin A, iron and zinc. By undertaking research into the best traditional breeding practices using the latest in modern biotechnology, developing countries can efficiently produce staple food crops with a higher micro-nutritional value which would effectively address some of the nutritional issues of the targeted group(s). Biofortified crops also help to promote food safety since the added trace minerals may prove essential in helping plants resist diseases which would otherwise have been treated with potentially harmful chemicals.

Also, mineral packed seeds have exhibited a higher proportion of survival as well as more rapid initial growth. The culmination of these two effects will translate to higher yields in the selected crops. This essential increase in agricultural productivity can help to promote sustainable agricultural practices aimed at meeting the nutritional objectives of the programme.