Deuxième Conférence internationale sur la nutrition (CIN2), 19-21 novembre 2014

Linking Agricultural Production Practices to Improving Human Nutrition and Health

Ross M. Welch, Robin D. Graham, Ismail Cakmak

Dysfunctional food systems, never designed to improve human nutrition and health, are the basis of malnutrition in many poverty stricken human populations. Notably, all food systems are dependent on agricultural systems as the primary source of nutrients entering food systems. Thus, agricultural systems must play a major role in the development of malnutrition globally. If the products produced from farming systems cannot provide all the nutrients (excluding water) required for human life, malnutrition results causing increases in morbidity and mortality rates, losses in worker productivity and stagnation of development efforts in those populations dependent on these systems.

Food security has been the major focus of many strategies to address malnutrition worldwide. Historically, meeting the caloric needs of populations was sufficient to meet global food security goals. However, just focusing on caloric needs alone is not sufficient. Food security programs should include the necessity that all nutrients be met by agricultural systems to redress the increases in malnutrition in mostly resource-poor families dependent on staple food crops for nourishment. “Nutrient security” should be one of the primary goals of food security programs and producing enough nutrients in agricultural systems to meet nutritional needs of all people during all seasons should be the focus.

In general, well-nourished food crops grown on fertile soils contain more vitamins and micronutrients than nutrient-stressed crops grown on infertile soils. Soil micronutrient status, cropping systems, variety selection (i.e., plant breeding) for micronutrient-dense crops (e.g., biofortification), fertilization practices, some soil amendments and livestock and aquiculture production are important factors that impact the nutrient output of these systems.