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1. The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition could make a significant difference in improving nutrition and food security of the people in Africa by highlighting and documenting the nutritional status of the population there, especially farming households in rural areas. While infant mortality rates are slowly declining in most, if not all, African countries (with the notable exception of Somalia, and perhaps others where data may not be available), more attention should be given by governments, especially policy makers, about the under-nutrition or malnourished status of their children. Since future economic development depends so much on future generations and their ability to lead healthy lives, contributing to the growth of the economy and making intellectual contributions to solve local problems, nutrition must come to the foreground for policy makers. More attention needs to be given to reduce and eventually eliminate stunting and poor brain development in the children of Africa. Publicizing the issue, documenting the issue, working with Ministries of Health, Agricultural and Education, the UN, especially the FAO, can help shine a strong light on this perplexing and pernicious issue and work with all stakeholders to resolve it.
2. Among the critical activities that need to be included in the Work Program for the implementation of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition in order to reach the 2025 global nutrition targets are: First, promote the broad and deep dissemination of bio-fortified crops as alternative crops to what is currently being grown, for example, promote iron-fortified beans, Vitamin A enhanced maize and sweet potato, zinc-fortified rice, and so forth. These are crops which HarvestPlus and the CGIARs like CIP, have developed and which are being tested locally and, in some cases, like Zambia with Vitamin A maize, are being scaled out now. Second, develop and broadly publicize among the vast majority of people what good nutrition really means in terms of a well-balanced diet with protein, minerals and vitamins from animal sourced foods, fruits and vegetables, legumes and other crops. This should be done using multiple forms of media, such as television (for urban consumers) radio (for all consumers), through mobile phone platforms, including through SMS text and VOIP activities, newspapers, and so forth. Such nutritional information activities must also be done as part of schools' curriculum, so that children learn what a good, balanced diet is and why it is so important to their improved health, welfare and intellectual development.
3. In order to accelerate and improve the quality of commitments from the various actors, widepsread publicity, using data-driven monitoring and evaluation, of improvements must be done. Governments and international and local NGOs can play a critical role in working on such a national even continent-wide nutritional information campaign. The private sector, especially seed companies, must be encouraged to work with HarvestPlus and the CGIARs to commercilize and make broadly available to farmers the seeds and vines of bio-fortified crops. Food processing companies should be encouraged to use bio-fortified crops in making foods and beverages for mass consumption, including as part of school feeding programs in pre-schools, elementary and middle schools.
I look forward to following this dialogue. But more importantly, I look forward of being part of the solution to the malicious and persistent problem of malnutrition and under-nutrition in children in Africa. Thank you.