In Zambia, if you touch maize, you lose an election!

Agriculture can improve nutrition but it is not what you think. Namukolo Covic, coordinator A4NH in Ethiopia gave an interesting perspective in her keynote speech at the plenary session II.  She reiterated that countries must leverage on non-agricultural sectors to complement agricultural interventions. Unless this is done, agriculture and food systems cannot work to ensure optimal nutrition outcome. This is not peculiar to developing countries, even the developed countries face similar challenges. An integrated or holistic approach will no doubt improve the contribution of agriculture to food security and nutrition.

Consumption of nutritious crops and vegetables remains low in developing countries. Crops with lesser nutritional qualities are staple foods for communities in Africa. Therefore, the increase in the crop yield in developing countries is not proportionate to the increase in food and nutrition security. A good example is the yield of maize in Zambia, which doesn’t correspond to an improvement in nutrition. In fact, in Zambia, most government policies are centred around maize. According to Namukolo, politicians are keen towards maize policies because if they make an unfavourable decision on maize, they will lose an election. However, malaria treatment (using insecticide-treated net) in fact contributes more to the reduction of stunted growth than food nutrition interventions or staple crop yield in Zambia. Another example is the anaemia issues in Africa. Policies have over the years been centred so much on micronutrient intake interventions but this has not led to a significant reduction in the cases of anaemia. Therefore, to solve anaemia problem, diversification of interventions will also go a long way. In general, a holistic approach will guarantee nutrition security and unless agriculture is adequately complemented by other sectors, nutrition security is impossible!


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