Feeding Africa 2015

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Nutrition beyond agriculture: investing in Africa’s grey matter

During this session, Global Panel Director Sandy Thomas shed the light on the specific opportunities the Global Panel has identified for policy change that can simultaneously enhance food and nutrition security.

The panel:

  • Jamie COOPER, Big Win Philanthropy
  • Muhammad PATE Big Win Philanthropy
  • Sandy THOMAS, Director, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition
  • Ramiro LOPES DA SILVA, Assistant Executive Director, World Food Program
  • Awa Mame COLLSECK, Minister of Health Global
  • Victor AJIEROH, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
  • Nita DALMIYA, Nutrition Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund Nutrition
  • SALL, Nutrition Specialist ,Cheick Anta Diop University
  • Richemond SEKI, Nutritionist, Food and Agriculture Organisation
  • Njack KANE John Kufour Foundation

Background information

The multiple burdens of malnutrition pose a direct threat to the aspiration of the next generation. In sub-Saharan Africa 38% of children are stunted. Lacking key nutrients in the key 1,000 days from conception to the age of two, they grow into adulthood permanently shorter and weaker and with less developed brains. This condemns them to a lifetime of poor health, reduced cognitive ability, lower productivity and poverty. Better child nutrition in African countries could boost economic growth rates by 1-3% and Gross National Product by 2-16%. Undernutrition is also a moral issue, causing 3.1 million deaths per year – 45% of all child deaths.

Nutrition is not the same as food security or hunger, because it involves specific nutritional deficiencies such as protein, vitamins and minerals. Programmes to address child nutrition involve interventions such as supplements for pregnant women, breastfeeding promotion and changes in household behaviours. However, nutrition-specific interventions are not sufficient to eliminate undernutrition. Other sectors need to be involved, particularly agriculture and food systems, where there are many opportunities to make both more nutrition-sensitive, for example raising the nutrient levels of crops through biofortification.

Many initiatives recognise the importance of nutrition. The UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG2 involves ending malnutrition by 2030 and the African Union Malabo Declaration aims to cut stunting to a prevalence of 10% by 2025.

Currently, about three quarters of the investments of the African Development Bank involve physical infrastructure such as transport, energy and irrigation. Important as these are, there is a real opportunity to complement these sectors by a greatly increased investment in human capital, including nutrition for boosting cognitive ability – Africa’s “grey matter infrastructure”.

About the event

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