Africa’s nutrition needs can be met using local foods, but there must be data to guide uptake plans

As Africa bids to meet its nutrition goals it is required of its leaders to focus on strategies that encourage the consumption of local food products that fuel diverse, healthy diets with the safety and quality every consumer needs.

This is according to experts at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, who recommended the development of urban food markets and the fostering of urban-rural linkages, as some of the strategies to speed up the reduction of poverty and hunger in Africa.

In this regard, Ms Thato Moagi-Mugonda, a South African Farmer and the Managing Director of Black Sheep Agribusiness, spoke of the need for encouraging the uptake of indigenous food products.

Ms Moagi-Mugonda noted that people living in urban areas are increasingly receptive to traditional, highly-nutritious food items, provided it is presented in ways that appeal to their desires.

"Producers need to be creative in their approach and make products that speak to the consumers in their current lifestyles," she said.

Fellow panelist Dr. Barbara Wells, the Director General of the International Potato Center, added that there is a need for leaders at all aspects of society to inspire campaigns around the consumption of healthy foods.

Citing the success of her organisation's orange-flesh sweet potato, which is now being cultivated in 16 African countries, benefitting 30 million farmers, Dr. Wells said adoption at a household level is mainly triggered by general public education.

"Education at the community level must involve the participation of community leaders, who have a greater influence in their areas of leadership," she said.

Also on the panel were Dr. Lawrence Haddad Executive Director, GAIN, Dr. Johan Swinnen, Director General, IFPRI and Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli Co-founder, AACE Foods, who all spoke of the need for comprehensive data to identify the nutritional needs of the continent as a primary step in the solution-finding process for nutrition challenges.

"We need to figure out new ways of collecting data that eliminates middlemen --- using mobile phones, using big data and global poling platforms... We also need to figure out new ways of investing in data allowing us to see, because if we don't see, we are basically stumbling in the dark, and it is the people at risk of malnutrition who will suffer the most," Dr. Haddad said.

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