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Improving agriculture diets by taking into account nutrition

Agriculture that takes into account nutrition is an approach that seeks to maximize the contribution of agriculture to nutrition. This strategy emphasizes the multiple benefits of enjoying a varied diet, and recognizes the nutritional value of foods for good nutrition, health and productivity, as well as the social importance of food and agriculture sector to support rural livelihoods . In addition, agriculture that takes into account nutrition involves directing attention to poor households, promote gender equality and provide nutrition education for the household resources are used to improve the nutrition of their members, especially women and children little ones. Finally, it involves linking agriculture sectors facing other causes of malnutrition, specifically education, health and social protection.

FAO promotes agriculture that takes into account nutrition through a variety of partnerships and capacity development. For example, since 2011, FAO has partnered with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to help countries integrate nutrition into their national agricultural investment plans. More recently, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FAO, the World Bank and Renewed Efforts Initiative Against Child Hunger organized a training session on the subject, with the aim of expanding the pool of experts who know the links between agriculture and nutrition. The group is currently working to transform the workshop in a series of training sessions. Bibi Giyose, Senior Policy Officer FAO Nutrition, attended the workshop and shared their professional knowledge.

What were the main contributions of the workshop on agriculture that takes into account nutrition?

The attention of the workshop focused on the integration of objectives and concerns related to nutrition in the planning process of agricultural investment. The training emphasized planning nutrition interventions since the start of a project, rather than adapting existing programs, representing a detailed analysis of the situation to understand the nutritional problems and their causes in order to define the ways in that investments in agriculture can prevent malnutrition.Prevention is key, because in addition to the obvious health benefits that involves stopping before it starts malnutrition, prevention programs are more profitable than those that focus exclusively on treatment. Also in the workshop stressed the importance of monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of agricultural investments in food consumption and nutrition to document the positive results were noted, but also to take corrective measures in the event that negative impacts are observed.

¿ What is your experience in working with agriculture that takes into account nutrition?

As Senior Officer nutrition policy, work on incorporating nutrition considerations into policies and programs, trying to determine the best way agriculture in addition to the economic benefits, may benefit from nutritional goals. At this time, it is important to examine global trends in agricultural development, specifically how different agencies and sectors face or may face in their nutrition programs. Understand who does what is essential to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

What are some examples of how agriculture can improve nutrition in a home or community?

Instead of focusing exclusively on cash crops for sale in the market, rural farmers can use their land to produce a variety of commodities, including fruits, vegetables and small animals like chickens. This can improve household food security, nutrition and economic situation of the family and the community. For many households, agriculture is also a key revenue source that can be used, for example, to buy a variety of food and access to health care and clean water.Investing in school feeding programs with local products will help farmers by giving them a guaranteed market, but also encourage the proliferation of crops and nutritionally beneficial foods for children.

How can you change the trends and standards of agricultural development to improve nutrition?

There must be a change of mentality in the way we currently consider agriculture. This is not simply limited to the production of cereal crops; from horticulture to forestry and fisheries, agriculture should be seen not only as a means to an end but as an essential process for improving the quality of food available to the community and ensure healthy soils and ecosystems for future. Our food systems are also changing rapidly, as seen in the increasing reliance of rural purchased and processed foods. Although agricultural modernization and greater integration of markets is associated with lower level off of malnutrition, we also observed an increase in cases overweight and chronic diseases related to diet such as diabetes worldwide, while deficiencies of vitamins and minerals are standing at unacceptably high levels. Therefore, it is urgent to make the promotion of healthy diets occupy a central place in agricultural policies and programs.

This requires that we improve our indicators and we develop measurement systems that provide us with an accurate picture of how agriculture affects detailed 3 week diet plan review and then use this information to drive policy changes. Programs should focus more on prevention of all forms of malnutrition, and nutrition is to be incorporated into agricultural investment plans to ensure that a budget dedicated to agriculture that takes into account nutrition.

¿ In addition to agricultural production, what other ways you can change the food system to improve nutrition?

Nutrition must be incorporated into all aspects of the value chain, starting with soil rich in nutrients that improve crop quality, and extend through the food system to other elements such as food safety, processing and enrichment of these and their proper preparation and household consumption. The food preparation is essential to produce nutritionally rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products, available all year. In addition, you can reduce the time of preparation of food; therefore, like other technologies that save labor, can enable women to devote more time to care for their children, specifically to suck them. Initiatives in nutrition education explaining which combinations of foods provide essential vitamins and minerals can also have a big impact.

Do you have some examples of projects or associations related to agriculture that takes into account nutrition within FAO?

Nutrition in the early stages of life is essential to stay well nourished, healthy and productive throughout a lifetime. Hence FAO work with farmers, processors and local markets in several countries to procure quality ingredients for supplementary feeding programs from six months of age. These complementary foods, when combined with continued breastfeeding, provide essential nutrients for the nutritional needs of growing children and for optimal physical and mental development. In Cambodia and Malawi, FAO works with extension and social services for women to introduce improved complementary foods using local ingredients by cooking demonstrations. In addition, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Fund of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), promotes improved school nutrition through school gardens, healthy school meals and the integration of nutrition education in the curricula of schools. In Cape Verde , for example, working with the Government, UN agencies and civil society organizations to promote buying local fruits, vegetables, beans and fish producers place to diversify school meals.

At the policy level, FAO is working with ministries of agriculture and health and other relevant institutions in various countries around the world, especially in member countries of the Movement for promoting nutrition, in order to ensure that nutritional goals are incorporated into agricultural policies and agricultural interventions are integrated into multi-sectoral nutrition strategies. FAO supports the creation of an enabling environment and capacity building for successful interventions on the ground to run on a larger scale.

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