Where is the problem of food insecurity, health and nutrition at its most severe? The developing world, particularly Africa, bears the brunt. And where are the solutions?
Calls were made as the conference began for a radical shift in agricultural policies and research to link increased production to health and nutrition. This holds the key to better livelihoods for the poor majority who wholly depend on agriculture in the developing world.
Rajul Pandya Lorch, fead of the 2020 Vision Initiative and Chief of Staff at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said the meeting should address policy, linkages and research gaps.
She wants scientists in the three areas to stop working in isolation, as their branches of expertise are intertwined in real life situations – and that is a serious gap that must be bridged.
“These are some of the things we will look at in the meeting. We do not only need innovations and technologies that will increase production but also to use science to address safety and the nutritional value of the foods produced,” she said.
An integrated approach is needed to address gaps in the whole food value chain – from pre-production technologies to infrastructure and markets that are accessible, and affordable, to the poor.
But the conference, inaugurated yesterday by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, has a huge task to deliberate on so many issues in the next two days.
Sukhadeo Thorat, chairman of India’s University Grants Commission, expects it also to deal with this fact: the availability of food does not guarantee good nutrition or the health needs of the people. Science must be one of the pillars in agricultural policies to address quality and safety.
It is for this reason that IFPRI director-general, Shenggen Fan, thinks agricultural research needs to be viewed in tandem with nutrition and health.
“They need to design agricultural policies and investments for health and nutrition and not production alone,” he said, adding that agricultural science must focus not only on production but also address health, nutrition and diseases that are linked to agriculture like malaria and avian flu.
Ochieng’ Ogodo, Sub-Saharan Africa News Editor, SciDev.Net