A multifaceted approach to food production , health and nutrition is especially critical in the early growing stadges of a child. It is a welcome foresight to view that not just quantity but also nutritional quality of food is being considered.
“Gaps remain in research and data on how agriculture can help boost people’s nutritional status. A 2007 report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and World Bank said: “Malnutrition remains an urgent global public health concern. Yet the question of how agriculture can most effectively contribute to improved nutrition outcomes remains essentially unanswered.”
One of the paper’s authors, Marie Ruel, director of IFPRI’s poverty, health and nutrition division, says this question is still largely unanswered, partly because any initiatives over the years have not been well documented.
What has changed in the past few years, however, is that many more policymakers, donors and researchers are talking about it, she said. “A lot more people are recognizing that we really don’t have the choice; we have to bring the sectors together, we have to make agriculture recognize better its role in providing not just enough food to feed people but also enough of the quality, nutritious foods, and that these are made more accessible to the poor.”
Agriculture could boost nutrition either by increasing income so a family can purchase more and higher quality food, or by helping farmers produce more nutrient-rich foods. The merits and effectiveness of both are still under study but, IFPRI’s Ruel said, neither approach can be standalone.
“Having the right foods at the household level, either because you produce them or because you buy them in the market, is not enough; people need to know how to use the food and how to use it for the age groups that are most vulnerable to malnutrition – that is, of course, young children and women of child-bearing age.
“The key to success [in countries that have made progress] has been to press all the buttons at the same time, that is, address the problems in the society that contribute to poor nutrition, while also targeting vulnerable groups with specific nutrition interventions, for example, micronutrient supplementation and promotion of optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices.”
She said the 2007-2008 food price crisis had been a wake-up call about the need to incorporate nutrition into other social sectors. “I think the fact that nutrition was always the orphan and always falling between the cracks is maybe less of an issue now because other sectors are… interested in finding ways to incorporate nutrition in social protection, in agriculture, in education.” ”