Policy Makers Advocate Urgent Reforms to Boost Nutrition in Africa

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James Emejo in Abuja

African senior policy makers have emphasised the need for urgent policy reforms and institutional innovation to overcome malnutrition and boost agriculture in the continent.

In a communique issued at the close of its summit which was organised by the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in partnership the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), with the theme: “Agriculture and Food Policies for Improved Nutrition Outcomes in Africa,” the group adopted a declaration as an affirmation of their strong commitment to supporting agricultural and food systems for enhanced human capital development.

It stated that while food and nutrition security remained part of a larger nexus of development challenges and opportunities, making agriculture more nutrition-sensitive ought to be promoted as a sustainable solution to the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency) facing African countries.

They also recognised the implications of ongoing demographic, epidemiologic and nutrition transitions as well as their implications and consequences for Africa’s malnutrition burden on child mortality, education outcomes, healthcare system and labour productivity.

While further commending governments across the continent for realising the importance of increasing shares of national budgets to agriculture, health and nutrition, they called for appropriate incentives and nutrition education which are critical for households to consume appropriate diets and adopt productivity- and income-enhancing technologies and practices that drive agricultural development and broader economic and social transformation.

The summit also affirmed that several structural conditions generate obstacles to such increased consumption and adoption, most notably inadequate early-life nutrition, food prices, affordability and accessibility of nutritious foods through the life cycle, low income and education levels, including critical information gaps.

Noting that the nutritional needs of women and children require special attention, they tasked governments on the need to address expanded access to land through secure tenure, credit, markets, and financial services.

The group in their declaration, further committed to create enabling environments for adoption of yield-enhancing technologies, seize market opportunities, raise incomes and enhance nutritional status and well-being.

They also expressed their commitment “to undertake consultations within our own Governments, both national and sub-national, to explore scope for employing demand-led approaches within public food procurement programmes, thereby promoting healthy diets, nutritional outcomes and human capital development for inclusive and sustainable growth and broader transformation.”