The New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) senior nutrition and partnership advisor Dr. Isatou Jallow has bemoaned the high rates of malnutrition among smallholder farmers, who ironically, are main producers of food across the continent.
She has since stressed the need for African governments to consider developing initiatives which improve the nutritional status of smallholder farmers.
Speaking on Wednesday at the ongoing sixth commemoration of the Africa Day Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS) in Uganda, Jallow said malnourished farmers cannot work productively.
“I am aware that African governments have different initiatives to improve food security and also agricultural products. When we are designing these initiatives, we want people to have good nutrition outcomes.
“When you look at food production, who produces it? They are the small holder farmers, yet if you look at nutritional status of the population, you find the highest rates of malnutrition, among these very farmers who produce the food, so that must be taken into consideration,” Jallow said.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Senior nutrition manager Mohamed Bendech noted that if nutrition is not incorporated in most initiatives, Africa will have more malnourished people who cannot work effectively for its development.
“Under nutrition and over nutrition is rising and we need to handle these issues. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex, but there is progress in terms of policies, coverage of highly impact intervention. The challenges are still hence the need to increase funding for nutrition and accountability.
“Malnutrition is a development issue, according to a recent research, when you invest one dollar you earn in terms of well being of population about 16 dollars. In relation to cost of hunger, as the prevalence of stunting is increasing, the loss in terms of annual GDP also increases, this is mainly due to consequences of stunting,” he stated.
And Senior Programme Manager for the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management, Jesus Anton said the organisation is currently working with small holder farmers across Africa in the area of risk management.
“Currently we are working with the Government of Uganda and the private sector in ensuring that appropriate measures in terms of financial responsiveness measures are taken in order to avoid disasters and if it should happen, then small holder farmers should be able to manage,” she said.
According to Anton, technologies which involve use of early maturing seeds, good storage facilities are also being encouraged.
“Farmers need to be empowered to have diversified set of technologies for them to use. In this project we are building capacity so that they are able to assess the risks, respond and manage tem by putting to good use instruments that have been made available to them,” he explained.
During a meeting in Equatorial Guinea last year, African Heads of States and Governments committed to ending hunger by 2025 and reducing stunting to 10 per cent, among others.
This was in recognition of the importance of food and nutrition for the development agenda in Africa.