19 October 2016

Ghana is rewriting norms on nutrition in Africa. Other countries can too.

OK so it is not the snappiest of titles for a report series, but the AnnualTrends and Outlook Report from ReSAKSS has become a widely respected annual stock take on agriculture in Africa.  So it is highly significant that it is titled “Achieving a Nutrition Revolution for Africa.”  Why significant? Because this series is produced by, and for, an agricultural policy analysis audience.  The report has been going for 10 years and this is the first time they have focused on nutrition. This is the true test of whether nutrition is moving up the agenda —when flagship publications from related sectors choose to highlight nutrition. 

The 2016 ReSAKKS Annual Conference drew about 150 people, from all over Africa, to Accra. The Government of Ghana, the African Union Commission, USAID and IFPRI were co-hosts and it was excellent to move nutrition outside the echo chamber. We heard about nutrition training for 15,000 agricultural extension workers in Rwanda, about the need to revamp agricultural economics policy curricula starting with South Africa’s, about strategies to engage seed companies around more nutritious seeds and what might incentivise them (in the absence of immediate commercial return), about the need to invest in the productivity of non-staple crops, and about the economic productivity returns to adults of improved nutrition.

I gave a keynote on where Africa is on meeting various targets.

Key points:
  • few countries have SMART targets for women’s anemia, low birth weight and under 5 overweight;
  •  9 countries are on track to meet the WHA stunting target, and another 30 or so are making progress towards it, although not rapid enough;
  •   only 4 countries are on track to meet the, admittedly stringent, Malabo CAADP targets of 10% stunting by 2025;
  • government spending on nutrition actions, broadly defined, is low at about 1% of total government expenditure.
I also presented the 2016 Global Nutrition Report at a side event and was a discussant on a biofortification session.  On biofortification, I stressed that the programmes seems to be at the end of the beginning and now scaling is the imperative.  But it was not clear to me how this would be achieved:  how to create profit incentives for seed companies to pick this up and how to create demand among consumers for the crops.  The presentations said that this is what the biofortification programs were going to do, but not how.

I finished my various presentations with the Ghana data: stunting has almost halved in 11 years: 36% to 19%.  This is especially remarkable because it was achieved without much fanfare.  And this is an important lesson: commitment does not confine itself to glitzy proclamations, even if they are SMART.  Commitment is manifest in many people from many sectors doing their jobs well and finding ways to bend existing resources ever so slightly towards nutrition goals.  Increased accountability is important to help keep those in power focused on the prize and to give the rest of us hope that our own work will count. 

Ghana is rewriting nutrition norms in Africa.  Other countries can too.

 Editors of the report, Namukolo Covic and Ousmane Badiane from IFPRI and Sheryl Hendriks from the University of Pretoria.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks prof Haddad for sharing. Nutrisensitive agriculture is the way forward along with sanitation etc to bring about sustainable change.