Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Anna Antwi GD Resource Centre, Ghana
FSN Forum

Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

I acknowledge the contribution of diverse persons from the group to the topic. I’m contributing to the various sections mentioned that will enhance food based approaches to better nutrition as:

Policy issues: A national comprehensive Food and Nutrition Policy comprising all relevant sectors addressing all levels and with emphasis on food based systems is needed at the country level. The development, coordination and lead institution should be linked to the Presidency to give the policy a national look and to encourage multi-sectoral approach, also as a national priority. If possible the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Forestry and Fisheries – depending on the country) are encouraged to have their own policy direction that consist of :

Production and Consumption: of improved crop varieties with high nutritive value (like Quality Protein Maize, iron rich beans, high vitamin A Orange Flesh Sweet Potato, etc). These bio-fortified food crops could be promoted especially in poor areas of high deficiencies. Households could be encouraged to go in other agricultural productions to meet dietary needs of the family (like animal production like snails, small ruminants, fishery, poultry, piggery, grass-cutter, some types of insects etc; fruits and vegetables). Even some forestry products (like mushrooms) could be domesticated to enhance consumption. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture could work closely with Food Research Institutions including the Universities to breed high yield and disease resistant nutritive stocks/ varieties, and for increased shelf life and storage. To ensure all year round availability, households could be encouraged to process and preserve some food (both crops and animals). The approach may be in a form of campaign to bring all on board.

Promotion of Right to Food: government should respect, protect and fulfil (promote and provide) the Right to Food by ensuring that all people can enjoy this right. Consequently, all other rights must be enjoyed by every single one such as right to water, employment, health, access to natural resources for production, education and others. Good governance at the lower level with citizen participation in programs is also essential.

Nutrition education: Extension and health workers could work together especially at the community level to educate rural and farm families particularly adolescent girls, women of reproductive age and household care givers on importance of nutrition. This extension education could be coupled with mass and social education on consumption of food groups and dietary diversity, with good source of water, hygiene and sanitation.

Social protection: for the poor and vulnerable in society such as School Feeding Program for school children in primary schools; food ratios and/ or stipends for People living with HIV/AIDs, children under five years and the aged.

Utilization:   Local foods could be encouraged and promoted. 

The knowledge gaps: are the nutritive value of local vrs exotic foods, food safety and quality, food handling, agrochemical uses, food preparation and storage etc

Program issues: The policy (as stated above) could be implemented through education and   simple messages on the different food groups targeting specific areas with nutrition challenges. Adopting aggressive marketing and advertising through social media, radio, TV and mobile vans in the communities to enhance food based nutrition will go a long way to bring all on board. In Ghana, there is this program on food groups as: Glo (fruits and vegetables – vitamins and minerals), Grow (Protein foods) and Go (energy giving foods). The message is simple and loved by even children. It must however be translated into various languages and promoted in all spheres of the country.

Partnerships: The Head of State’s leadership in food based approach is indispensable in holding the policy and program together and therefore it is highly recommended that the coordination and harmonization of the program be housed in the Presidency. National Planning office could support in the development of programs. At the conception phase of the program, all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies involved in Nutrition related programs should be consulted and involved in the initial planning stage.

Anna Antwi
GD Resource Centre
(also Food Security Advisor to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada – formerly CIDA)