Agriculture and nutrition

Today, the world faces a particularly difficult challenge: improving nutrition for all. Contrary to how malnutrition is often portrayed in the Western media, these are not two separate issues – undereating the poor and overeating the rich. Around the world, this double burden is associated with disease and death from too much and too little food. So if we’re concerned about reducing poverty, we need to think about malnutrition in a broader sense, and how agricultural systems affect it.

In a recently published paper, the Center for Agriculture and Health Research looked at 150 agricultural programs ranging from growing staple crops with higher levels of micronutrients to encouraging home gardening and households.

They showed that most of them were not effective. For example, the production of more nutritious food does not mean that it will be consumed by malnourished people. Most agricultural activities have focused on specific food products.

For example, providing households with cows to increase income and milk production in order to improve nutrition. But there is another approach to this problem, which involves understanding how existing national agricultural and food policies affect nutrition and how they can be changed. The food and agriculture sectors of the United Nations emphasize the need to be guided by the principle of “do no harm” in order to avoid the undesirable negative consequences of agricultural policies.

Even the most successful policy can have its drawbacks. For example, global investment in cereal productivity in the past century, now known as the green revolution, pushed millions of people in Asia into poverty and malnutrition. When research was prioritized on high calorie over micronutrient rich crops, this has resulted in nutritious foods becoming more expensive today.

In late 2013, with the support of the UK Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems was established “to provide effective leadership to decision makers, in particular government, in agricultural and food policy and investment to low- and middle-income countries.”

It is encouraging to see a rise in the globalization of nutrition improvement.


Leave a Reply