Africa College attends IFPRIs 2020 Conference
Africa College attends IFPRIs 2020 Conference Leveraging Agriculture for improving Nutrition and Health in New Delhi.
Africa College provided a travel grant for Bastiaan Brak, a Research Fellow from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, to attend an international conference organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), India from 10-12 February 2011.
The conference addressed the need to improve understanding of the links between agriculture, health and nutrition. The conference was opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and also contained a video message by Hillary Clinton, currently Secretary of State of the USA. Participants represented a wide range of stakeholders: governments, NGOs, private sector and academia in the agriculture, health and nutrition sectors.
Plenary and parallel presentations were given in the following six topics.
? Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health: Where Are We Now? Where Do We Want to Be?
? Enhancing Nutrition and Cutting Health Risks along the Agricultural Value Chain
? Learning from Country Case Studies, Program Interventions, and Evaluations
? Key Levers and Incentives: Economic, Social, Governance, and Science and Technology
? Regional Perspectives and Priorities
? Addressing Priorities in Research and Action Gaps
? Reimagining How Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health Can Link Better
For those interested, the conference program, conference briefs and videos to the presentations are all accessible from the Conference website
The emphasis throughout the talks and discussion was on nutrition and one of the big themes running through the conference was that to tackle the problem of hunger and malnutrition, increased collaboration across disciplines, or as it was phrased breaking down the silos, is imperative. Prof. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the H. E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy from Cornell University, also argued that including interdisciplinary approaches in graduate and post-graduate training would be important to raise a new generation of researchers and policymakers.
Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, there was no significant attention to how climate change may impact on the nutrition linkage between agriculture and health. A representative of the UNs Standing Committee on Nutrition gave a 5 min. presentation mentioning the multiple pathways in which climate change affects the nutritional status of people in affected areas and which actions need to be taken. Those who are interested can read more in the 38th edition of SCN News from here and/or join the Nutrition and Climate Change eGroup
Regarding the African perspective a few things are worth mentioning. The inaugural session contained a passionate talk by H.E. John Kufuor, the former President of the Republic of Ghana arguing the important role that Governments in Africa can play in mitigating hunger and malnutrition.
We heard from William Masters about the Global Nutrition Collaborative Research Support Program in Africa, a new, USAID funded, 5 year collaborative program of various US universities with partners in the developing world aimed at learning how to scale up maternal and child nutrition and health outcomes that have proved successful in pilot studies to the population level. Also interesting was a presentation of a successful agricultural intervention with explicit health and nutritional outcomes. The HarvestPlus CGIAR challenge program in Uganda and Mozambique introduced biofortified orange-fleshed sweet potatoes which increased Vitamine A intake and status in children.
Apart from gaining a broader perspective on the agriculture health relationship, I also met and spoke to key researchers currently involved in aflatoxin mitigation projects. We discussed ways to collaborate and the possibility for data sharing. I will now obtain access to a crop aflatoxin dataset from Niger that will help me in my current work on the AHRP project Measuring, predicting and adapting to aflatoxin risk under climate variability and change.
I would like to thank Africa College for providing me with the opportunity to build up my academic network as well as to broaden my understanding of the agriculture-health-nutrition linkages.
18th March 2011